Monday, November 12, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 10/31 & 11/7

Angel & Faith #15
Story: Christos Gage
Art: Lee Garbett/ David Lapham

"The Hero of His Own Story," is actually two stories, but each takes one of the series villains and gives us something from their point of view. The worlds of Joss Whedon are known for their fully formed characters, and writer Christos Gage does a great job of giving his villains a lot less hand wringing evil and more, for want of a better word, humanity. The first half of the issue, drawn be Lee Garbett, gives us a meeting in a diner between Angel and Whistler, his once guide through the world, now enemy. We get more details of Whistler's past, and see that he's doing what he believes will save the world from the destruction of magic. It's a very, "the ends justify the means," plan, and one Angel can't get behind. So the die is cast, so to speak, for there will be no peace between these friends. The second half of the issue, drawn by David Lapham, is the origin of Pearl and Nash, the half-demon twins. While understanding where they come from might give the reader a bit of sympathy for them, Gage doesn't go as far as to make them like Whistler, a character who is looking to save the world and is just going about it in a way that isn't right. Pearl and Nash are still monsters, scary and more than a little evil. But maybe evil isn't all bad. In the end, these two stories leave the reader questioning exactly what they would do when put in the situation of the villains, and remembering that, after all, the villain is the hero of his own story.

Aquaman #13
Story: Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis

The second arc on the new Aquaman series, "The Others," comes to an end, and Aquaman makes some important choices about his life. Over the course of this arc, while hunting Black Manta, Aquaman has been dedicated to finally getting the revenge he wants by killing Manta. This issue sees Aquaman really come to understand exactly what revenge does to a person. It's an interesting step forward, as Geoff Johns has portrayed Aquaman as a warrior throughout the course of the run, and to see him try to make peace, and to hold back is an interesting development. We also got a good view of some Atlanteans this issue, setting up Aquaman's eventual return home, and introducing Aquaman's other archnemesis, his brother Orm, the Ocean Master. Johns gives some good material to Mera as well, keeping her as Aquaman's anchor (pardon the pun) that keeps him from going too far. I'm hoping that rest of The Others don't just fade away, as they are an interesting group of new characters who would make an excellent supporting cast. The new purpose given to the Prisoner-Of-War, going to the families of the ghost soldiers he sees and relaying messages,  is somewhat sentimental, but there's potential there for stories other than just a lot of hugs and tears. The idea of him as avenger as well as counselor could make for good stories. Two arcs in, Johns has done what he wanted, elevating Aquaman to the A-list of the DC Universe, and I think it's where he deserves to be.

The CBLDF Presents: Libert Annual 2012
Story & Art: Various

Every year, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) releases an anthology comic, benefiting the Fund's first amendment cause, and I always pick it up, not just because it's always a high quality book but because I like to support the CBLDF. This year's anthology is no exception, with some stories specifically about the CBLDF's mission of freedom of speech, and others that are just fun. On the freedom of speech front, there is "Barren Ground," by Andy Diggle & Ben Templesmith, shows exactly the power a demon has in a society where freedom reigns and shame has no place, and "Just as Real as Yours," by Jim McCann & Janet Lee is a sweet vignette of people leading very different lives meeting in a laundromat.Other highlights include an amusing Sasquatch one page strip with script by Chris Roberson and art by Matt Signal favorite Roger Langridge and a slice of a conversation from comic conventions from Chris Giarrusso. James Robinson and J. Bone present "Hunters," a preview of their new creator owned book, "Saviors," and Chynna Clugston Flores and Joe Keatinge tell a beautiful slice of life tale about a mother and daughter in, "Lumiere." The marquee story is a new tale of The Governor from The Walking Dead, from series creators Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard. It's a great anthology, with something for everyone, and it's for a good cause. What are you waiting for?

Detective Comics #14
Story: John Layman
Art: Jason Fabok/Andy Clarke

John Layman's second issue of Detective Comics is as strong as his first. There's less of the Penguin in this issue, and more Batman, and I again am pleased to see that Layman writes a clever Batman, one who is at home in a Detective themed book. He also writes an excellent, and interesting, Poison Ivy. Ivy is a character who has, over her history, lived two distinct lives. Early on, she was just a criminal with powers to control men and had a thing for Batman, but thanks mostly to her excellent portrayal in Batman: The Animated Series, Ivy has been portrayed as an ecoterrorist more in recent years. Layman works to find a balance between the two portrayals, and follows up on her time in Birds of Prey, with an Ivy who is concerned with ecology but really seems to enjoy playing with men on her puppet strings, as seen in not just the main story but the Ivy-centric back up. We also get another classic Bat villain making a status quo changing appearance, but I don't want to spoil the twist the end of the issue. "Emperor Penguin," has gotten off to a great start, and with the Joker popping in next issue, things are only going to get better from here.

Ghosts #1
Story & Art: Various

The second anthology I'll be talking about today, Ghosts is the newest anthology from Vertigo, and is a nice balance between the dark and horrific and the amusing. While all the stories are excellent, here are my favorites. "The Night I Took the Data Entry Job I Was Visited By My Own Ghost," by Al Ewing & Rufus Dayglo is a funny story about a man who, as the title tells you, is harassed by the ghost of his rocking self when he sells out and takes a day job. "A Bowl of Red," by Neil Kleid & John McCrea, is a creepy tale in the EC school, about a group of chili snobs who go to find the ultimate bowl of chili and the horror that follows. "Ghost for Hire" marks the first Vertigo work of Geoff Johns, and has art by Jeff Lemire. It's another lighter story, about a man and his brother the ghost, who run a service where they scare people out of houses for a living. It's fun, and if there was a non-Vertigo anthology of these kind of stories, it would have worked nicely there, as it isn't necessarily a mature readers story. The story that really makes this anthology a must buy, though, is "The Old Man and the Boy." The final work penciled by Joe Kubert, it is presented just as Kubert left it, in sketchy pencils with lettering in place. It's a good horror story set in Mesoamerica, and to see the last work of one of comics' true legends takes the story to a whole new level.

Masters of the Universe: The Origins of Skeletor
Story: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art: Frazier Irving

From my love of Star Wars comics, it's pretty clear I don't hold any snobbery about liscensed properties. And while yes, I was the perfect age to love He-Man when he debuted in the 80s, it is a property that has not aged well; the original cartoon is really just a half hour toy ad, and the 2002 reboot was excellent but suffered from poor ratings. DC's new reboot has also had its problems, with creator shifts and delays. This issue, though, is a great comics. The story takes elements of the various origins of Skeletor, and creates a cohesive origin, which is all well and good, and writer Joshua Hale Fialov does a good job presenting Keldor's point of view. But the star of this issue is Frazier Irving. His art, rife with shadows, adds an air of horror to what could have been nothing more than an origin story; Keldor's slowly melting face, going from scarred to completely mangled, and finally into Skeletor makes your skin crawl. The look on Keldor's face as a young man, as he realizes exactly how his life is destined to go is heart breaking, and makes you understand why he became the archvillain.

X-Factor #246
Story: Peter David
Art: Paul Davidson

OK, I admit that I'm the perfect audience for an issue of X-Factor centered around Pip the Troll. I've written about my love of Warlock, and Peter David handles the degenerate Pip with a deft hand. The story opens with Pip breaking up a faked mugging so he can pick up the victim, all the while saying he's Peter Dinklage. Pip is kind of sleazy in a Barney Stinson sort of way, which is perfectly in character and worth a chuckle or two. But the whole issue is from Pip's first person point of view, so as the story progresses, we begin to see that Pip really does love his job at X-Factor Investigations, and see the team as his family. Not exactly redeeming himself for being a lech, but at least you see that he has layers. I've written before that I think Peter David is one of the best character writers in comics, and this issue is a great single issue character piece. Peter David's usual comedy flair is shown through Pip's defense of X-Factor against the Friends of Humanity by using some alien tech to suck them into wormholes and quipping all the time. The end of the issue was a shock, and the perfect tonal switch, leaving the future of Pip, and by extension the family he has defended, in question. It's never easy for X-Factor.

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