Monday, July 30, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 7/25

All Star Western #11
Story: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Moritat & Scott Kolins

I was a big fan of Jonah Hex, the previous incarnation of this series, and was a little worried that it was being transformed from a series of mostly done-in-one stories to a more arc based series when it changed titles with the New 52. I'm happy to say my worries were unfounded. Gray and Palmiotti still tell some of the grittiest westerns in comics. This issue continues the war between the followers of the Crime Bible and the Court of Owls in 1880s Gotham City. The story features the return of Tallulah Black, Hex's on-again/off-again... I don't know how to describe them, exactly. Love interest is too strong, but lover seems to remove some of the emotional depth of their relationship. Tallulah narrates much of the issue, which is a change from Hex or Amadeus Arkham, who usually narrate the stories. Tallulah is tough as nails, but she is a distinct personality from Hex, and her voice is suitably different. Moritat continues to draw a gorgeous vision of Gotham in the 19th century, and his work has a realism that makes the grit of the city seem more real. His version of the Talon, the Court of Owls' assassin, is one of the best, acrobatic and graceful, but still with power. This issue also began a new back up story, featuring an 19th century version of Dr. Thirteen, the Ghostbreaker, a character who debunks supernatural occurrences. The story, dealing with him hunting for a "spectral" highwayman whose weapons shoot fire, is a fun one, with Thirteen being a condescending jerk towards those who live in superstition, which is pretty funny to read, actually. Scott Kolins art style is different from that of Moritat, but works well for this story. I hope that he proves an ancestor to a Dr. Thirteen who will pop up in the present DCU as well.

Axe Cop: President of the World #1
Story: Malachi Nicolle (Age 8)
Art: Ethan Nicolle (Age 31)

Axe Cop is something that defies any description of characterization. It started out as a webcomic, where artist Ethan Nicolle basically adapted playtime stories he and his younger brother, Malachi, came up with. The webcomic has grown in popularity, and the world of Axe Cop, a police officer with a magic axe who beheads criminals, has grown in complexity. The webcomic is a delight to read, so completely insane that only a kid could have come up with it. The comic has grown so popular that Dark Horse has released two collections of the webcomics, and last year published an original miniseries, Bad Guy Earth. This new mini, President of the World is a follow up to that series, but as is the way with playtime with young relatives, you can just kind of jump in with no previous knowledge. I don't want to talk too much about the issue, because to reveal that actual logistics of it would ruin its charm and the hilarity, but I will say there is the new character Goo Cop (who was changed into goo by aliens), a talking gorilla with robot hands and a magic tail, Ralph Wrinkles (Axe Cop's talking dog with magic healing laser eyes who happens to be his chief of staff), and killer robot penguins. The thing I love about Axe Cop is that it is the unbridled imagination of a child translated to the page, and giving young Malachi the longer form to play with only makes the stories trippier. I can't wait to see what curveballs wait in the next two issues.

The Flash #11
Story: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art: Marcus To

Some titles that came out of the New 52 were simply continuations of existing continuity and character, and some were changes to teams or formats, but keeping a lot of the essential. Some books were true reimaginings, though; taking a core concept and building a fresh world around them. While some, like Wonder Woman, which I talked about last week, have been successful, others have not. The Flash is one one of the best examples of these reimaginings. I am a Wally West fan, by the way; he was Flash when I started reading comics, and became a favorite superhero of mine. But writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have done a very good job of fleshing out Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash returned from the dead, in a way that has made me really like him. We continue to get a view of Barry's new life, as he has faked his death to protect the people he cares about and to free up time to be the Flash. Barry's struggles give him a humanity and a depth that I have felt that many writers have missed in writing the usually very square and upright Barry. Barry has also moved to Keystone City, the sister city to his usual running grounds of Central City, and the creators do a good job of giving it a different look and feel than the prettier Central. This issue also features the return of another of Flash's classic enemies, Heat Wave, reimagined. Like the other Rogues (yes, capital R. That's the team name of Flash's enemies), Heat Wave's power and look have been tinkered with, and now he seems to have his flame casting weapon as part of his body. He gets into a fight with Captain Cold, the leader of the Rogues, and Flash intercedes and saves the day. What makes the issue interesting is that the two are fighting for personal reasons that still remain unclear. This isn't two guys fighting over a score; there's something really between them. We also get glimpses of the rest of The Flash supporting cast, but this issue really is about Barry and the Rogues, and the world that they now live in.

Superman Family Adventures #3
Story & Art: Art Baltazar & Franco Aureliani

While I don't know if anything can fill the Tiny Titans shaped hole in my heart, Art and Franco's new Superman Family Adventures does a great job of giving me something new and different to enjoy. The series is a little more action based, with some real super hero fights happening, but never in a way that would make you think twice about handing it to a kid. This issue features Jimmy Olsen trying to use his signal watch to call Superman to stop an alien invasion and getting the Super-Pets instead, and Clark trying to convince Lois he isn't Superman using a Superman Robot, and this going comically wrong. The book is very fun, and hearkens back to classic Silver Age Superman stories. But Art and Franco continue to use their all ages book to make sly commentary on the current DCU, just like in Tiny Titans, with a sequence that explains why Superman no longer wears red shorts on his costume, and it's a hilarious explanation. If you're one of those people who miss the red shorts, you should check the issue out just for that.

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