Monday, June 25, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 6/20

Daredevil #14
Story: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee

Daredevil has quietly become the best comic that Marvel publishes. I had decided to drop the title at the end of Shadowland, since there are only so many times you can watch Matt Murdock's life be destroyed. But when Waid's new number one came out, I decided to give it a shot, and was shocked at the sheer joy that radiated off every page. The current story involves Matt being imprisoned in Latveria, home country of Dr. Doom, as a criminal for having gotten in the middle of a scheme to use Latveria to launder money for all the megacrime families. Waid puts Matt through his paces, being chased through the country by Doom's guards while his senses are failing him. Waid and his various artistic collaborators have created a very interesting visual for Matt's radar sense and his powers, and Chris Samnee, the newest addition to the rotating cast of artists, has picked up the ball and run with it, and having to play with it while Matt's senses are fading made it an even more interesting artistic experiment. Waid not only writes a Matt Murdock who seems better adjusted than he has since probably before Frank Miller's turn on the book, but he writes a great Foggy Nelson, and seeing the brief interlude with Foggy sets things up for when (if?) Matt returns to America.  The cliffhanger is beautifully done, a great synthesis of art and words, and I can't wait to see what happens next, which is exactly how a good comic cliffhanger should work.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #10
Story: Scott Lobdell
Art: Kenneth Rocafort

Red Hood and the Outlaws was one of the books that raised a lot of eyebrows when it launched out of the New 52, and not in the best way, particularly in the characterization of Starfire. But over the course of the series, Starfire's personality has reverted to something much more similar to what it was when she was first introduced by Marv Wolfman: a warrior woman with a sensitive streak. In this issue, we see Starfire at her best, summoned back to Tamaran and commanding her ship, the Starfire, which I assume to be the namesake of her Earth identity and not her naming the ship after herself. This is Kori at her best: tough, compassionate, and take charge. She isn't the vapid bimbo that people were assuming Lobdell was making her out to be at the beginning of the series. And hey, she's wearing head-to-toe armor! I also enjoyed Jason Todd, Red Hood, out on a date and attempting to not let on that he's actually an international man of mystery. That goes about as well as you might expect. The New 52 Jason has grown on me, being far less insane than his previous incarnation, but still a broken individual. This is one of the New 52 titles that has improved greatly from its first issue, and I'm hoping to see it continue to be the solid action comic that it has become.

Reed Gunther #10
Story: Shane Houghton
Art: Chris Houghton

Reed Gunther is cowboy. A cowboy who rides a bear named Sterling and hangs out with Starla, the toughest cowgirl you ever met. If that setup doesn't pique, I don't know what will. Reed Gunther is one of the recent additions to the Image stable that I have enjoyed tremendously because it's fun. Plain, crazy fun in the same way Atomic Robo is: a comic for all ages that doesn't talk down to any of its readers. Reed, Sterling, and Starla meet and fight monsters of different sorts each issue, getting into all sorts of trouble, often brought on by Reed's habit of not thinking before he acts or speaks. This is, sadly, the final issue of Reed Gunther for the near future, and wraps up many fo the plot threads that have run through the ten issues. It's an action packed issue, with Reed's friends trying to again save him from a bad decision, but in this case one brought on be Reed trying to save a friend. The bond of friendship that this issue tests between Reed and Sterling, and now Starla, is the central theme of the series, and Reed and Sterling are the best combo in comics this side of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. It's got high stakes without being bloody or morose, and has great character beats without beating the reader over the head with them. And what other comic ends its villain with a tickle fight? Brothers Shane and Chris Houghton have created a great book with Reed Gunther, and I can only hope we get more of it soon.

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi - Force Storm #5
Story: John Ostrander
Art: Jan Duursema

This issue marks the final part of the inaugural arc of Dawn of the Jedi, the story of the early days of the Jedi order by Star Wars super-team John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, and it works beautifully to set up what is to come for the series. Ostrander has introduced a large cast, but done it with a master's hand, giving each distinct personalities and motivations, and Duursema has given each looks that reflect their personas. Her art shines in this issue, during both the Force Storm and battle between the Jedi Journeymen and Masters against the monstrous Saarl, and during the aftermath of the battle in a much quieter way. Ostrander is an expert world builder (I will not hide my feeling that Ostrander is one of the great writers of the past thirty years of comics, and don't be surprised if you see a series of posts featuring his work on here in the not too distant future), and I love the various ideas that he has created for this series: The Jee'dai Order that has not become what we're used to seeing, an order attempting to maintain balance between light and dark instead of just embracing the light. Everyone knows how this story is going to end, with the birth of the Jedi and Sith Orders from the Jee'dai, but the fun is going to be seeing how, and the last, ominous page here seems to set those events in motion. But only time will tell.

Uncanny X-Men #14
Story: Kieron Gillen
Art: Dustin Weaver

Kieron Gillen's run on Uncanny X-Men has been the best in years, mixing superhero action with crazy science in a way similar to, but distinct from, the way Jonathan Hickman has done in Fantastic Four. This issue is an interlude in the middle of his Avengers Vs. X-Men tie-in arc, focusing entirely on Mr. Sinister, my personal favorite X-Villain of all time. When last we saw Sinister, he had created a race of perfect clones of himself, giving birth to a new race. This issue we find out where Sinister took his race when he disappeared, and what exactly he has been up to. It's a unique concept, the supervillain as a meme and system, literally a thought that crafts a race, and this issue follows one of the Sinister clones who believes that the leader, the current Alpha Sinister for want of a better term, needs to be eliminate him. I don't want to give anything more away in that, as the book features all sorts of twists and turns, and an ending that is both perfectly comic book and utterly creepy. Dustin Weaver is an artist whose work I first encountered during his run on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and his art has grown leaps and bounds over time. His art here is lush and detailed, beautifully displaying the faux-Victorian look of Sinister's new homebase, and working in excellent touches to all of the similarly period costumes. As I think about it, I would love to see him draw a Victorian-Off between Sinister and The Shade. I know it will never happen, but a guy can dream, can't he?

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