Monday, September 15, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 9/10

Batgirl: Futures End #1
Story: Gail Simone
Art: Javier Garron

The last time Gail Simone was leaving Batgirl, I wrote how much I was going to miss her. And while I feel that way this time too, it's nice to feel like this time she got a chance to not just wrap up her run in her last regular issue of the series, but to put a bow on it with this issue, the tie-in to DC Comics September event, Futures End, where all the series jump five years into the future. She brings in different aspects of her run, from Barbara's roommate Alysia to James Gordon Jr., but tells a story that shows the depths that Barbara could go to when pushed beyond the point of no return. Only it's not the point of no return. Even though Barbara has become Bete Noire, the black beast, even though Barbara has seemingly lost everything, she comes out of it stronger. Simone has proven that Barbara is one of the strongest characters in comics, and this story seals that, showing that, no matter the depths, Barbara will pull her way out of them. But beyond the Barbara story, which is a good one, readers are introduced to the League of Batgirls, or should I say reintroduced. While one is a new Batgirl, the character under the mask being Tiffany Fox, daughter of Batman's ally Lucius Fox, the other two are the pre-New 52 Batgirls Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, characters fans have been dying to see again, and back in their Batgirl identities. Simone leaves the book on a high note for many fans, letting them revisit these characters, written wonderfully, with a tribute from Barbara to them and for them to show how much Barbara has effected their lives. And this issue is a tribute to everything Simone has done with Barbara for all the years she has written the character. Thank you, Gail, for everything you've done, and I can't wait for the new Secret Six.

Copperhead #1
Story: Jay Faerber
Art: Scott Godlewski

Jay Faerber has written some of my favorite Image series of all time, including the superhero soap opera Noble Causes and the crime comic Near Death (and i just recently picked up the full run of his series Dynamo 5. I see a recommended reading in the future). So I was excited to see the announcement of his new series, Copperhead, which is a sci-fi/western mash-up, described by him in the little essay at the back of the issue as, "Deadwood in space." Mixed genres are a favorite thing of mine, and while the space western isn't new (Faerber admits as such in the same essay), it is a genre combo that works, and one that I've enjoyed often (see Firefly and Defiance and the Thrilling Adventure Hour segment "Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars" for some good recent examples). Faerber starts the series out strong, with an introduction to our leads, a couple of crimes, and some world building. Clara Bronson and her son Zeke move to the frontier town of Copperhead, where Clara has been hired as the new sheriff. Upon arriving, she meets the deputy who was passed over for the job, an alien named Budroxifinicus, who Clara dubs Boo to his chagrin. Clara and Boo go off to deal with a domestic disturbance, and come back to find the local mine owner, big shot Benjamin Hickery waiting to introduce himself, along with his artificial human workers, who Clara clearly has an issue with, saying they should have been destroyed, "after the war." While no details about this war are clear, it is clearly a plot point to be revisited, and an important part of world building a new universe; we readers aren't going to know everything that is normal conversation on a removed world in the future, and explaining it thoroughly would be forced. The relationship between Clara and Boo is going to be central to the comic, and her insistence on being in charge immediately is not going to go over well with a deputy who feels he should have been given the job. The issue ends with Clara and Boo discovering a crime that is much bigger than what she's seen so far, and Zeke getting himself into trouble while helping a local girl look for her lost dog; it's a nice cliffhanger that makes you want to come back. Scott Godlewski does a great job with the looks of the different aliens, and the old west/used universe feeling of the setting. This is a very solid first issue of a series that I'm going to be keeping my eye on over the coming months.

Lazarus #11
Story: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark

The third storyarc of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's at times frighteningly realistic dystopian political sci-fi, Lazarus, begins with the arrival of the Bittner family Lazarus, Sonja, at the borders of the territory of the Carlyle family, our main characters. For those of you who haven't tried the series, a Lazarus is a family member of one of the sixteen families who rule the world, who has been transformed into a fighting machine to guard their family's interests, and as Forever, our main character and Lazarus of the Carlyle family, arrives, we again see that Forever is seemingly more human than the other Lazarus (I'm assuming the plural of Lazarus, by the way. Lazaruses just sounds wrong to my ear). As was set up in last issue's one off story, Bittner is serving as go between for the Hock family, Carlyle's bitter rivals, who have captured Jonah Carlyle, the rogue son who attempted to betray the family and failed. The issue has two important aspects. The first is a further view into the way the families who rule the world interact with each other. The politics and the wheels within wheels that we see Malcolm Carlyle, family patriarch, planning for when in comes to the conclave of families. More integral is Forever beginning to really dig into the mystery of the message she received at the end of the first arc, saying that she is not, in fact, actually a Carlyle. She says she believes that message is from Jonah, attempting to sow discord, but there seems to be more to her belief than that, and there's clearly more to this. Her sister, as well s the doctor in charge of her care, Bethany, laughs it off, but goes out of her way to tell Malcolm that Forever is asking these questions. We also see Johana, Jonah's twin sister and co-conspirator, who escaped without suspicion after the treason, egging Forever on, reminding her what a traitor and bastard Jonah is, clearly hoping Forever will eliminate him before he reveals her part in the plot; Johana is the character most to be watched, as she is clearly far more clever than most give her credit for. Forever also spends time with Marisol, the woman who trained her, and mentions the message and her doubts. It's always interesting to see how different Forever's interactions with her family is from most others, and how different her interactions with Marisol is from everyone else, how much more comfortable she is. Forever is a wonderfully nuanced chaarcter, and I am looking forward to seeing her interact with other Lazarus.  The conclave begins next issue, and I'm curious to see more of each of the sixteen families, and I have a bad feeling for Marisol, who now might know something she really shouldn't.

Ms. Marvel #8
Story: G. Willow Wolsin
Art: Adrian Alphona

Ah, there's nothing like the story of a girl and her dog. Unless it's the story of a girl and her gigantic, genetically altered, teleporting dog. In the new issue of Ms. Marvel, the Inhumans' dog, Lockjaw, finds his way to Kamala Khan, our heroine. Kamala continues her attempts to track down and defeat the Inventor, the villain who has been menacing Jersey City, but now she has a little extra help. Kamala fights her way through another of the Inventor's mechanical menaces, and discovers more about just how he's powering them, and the action scenes are well written and drawn in Alphona's wonderful style. We also get to see Kamala with Nakia, one of her best friends, specifically the one who doesn't know her secret, and we start to see some fraying at the edges of that friendship, and more time with Kamala and Bruno, her best friend who does now her superhero identity, and he continues to be a classic superhero tech guy/sidekick who also serves as a sounding board for Kamala. We also get an ending with quite a cliffhanger, and I'm unsure of what Wilson is doing with Kamala's powers in the best way; I like to be kept guessing. But the real treat of the issue is seeing Kamala interact with Lockjaw. It's sweet to see how excited she is to spend time with the big dog, and it's great to see him add to her superheroing and to be so affectionate. When written write, Lockjaw is presented as a dog who might be a little smarter than average, but is still a dog, and Wilson captures that. I love Lockjaw, who is just one of the great superhero pets, and Alphona draws a great Lockjaw, with a face that is expressive without ever looking like anything other than the face of a dog. He also gives Lockjaw real mass and weight, making him feel as gigantic as he is. I hope Lockjaw stays as a member of the cast for the foreseeable future.

Stumptown Vol.3 #1
Story: Greg Rucka
Art: Justic Greenwood

Any writer with range is a slightly different writer when he or she is working in a different genre, and I'm a big fan of all the different writers Greg Rucka is, be it sci-fi Rucka, superhero Rucka, or steampunk Rucka. But the Rucka I love best is crime and spy Rucka, the guy who wrote Gotham Central, Queen & Country, and the Atticus Kodiak novels. And that Rucka is back is strong form with the debut of the new volume of his Portland set P.I. series, Stumptown. The issue is a character issue, getting you up to speed if you haven't read either of the previous stories. Stumptown follows Dex Parios, a private investigator in Portland, Oregon. The issue opens with Dex playing keeper for her local soccer team. When that game ends, she takes her brother Ansel, who is developmentally disabled, to a professional soccer game, where she meets Mercury, a friend of theirs, who gives them tickets to a signing with the team afterwards. At the match, she runs into CK, who scored the winning goal against her at the game at the beginning of the issue, and they spend some time chatting, and after the signing, Dex and Ansel stumble across the aftermath of a crime. And that's it. Not exactly the stuff of gumshoes and dames, huh? No, but what it does is expose you to exactly who Dex is, how protective she is of Ansel, how good she is to her friends. I'm also sure that, like the beginning of most good mysteries, it will be chock full of clues that will make a lot of sense as the mystery comes into focus. Rucka is a great writer when it comes to character, and this issue spotlights that. Justin Greenwood comes in as the new series artist, the first since co-creator Matthew Southworth. Greenwood's style isn't quite as gritty as Southworth's, but still fits the down and out P.I. tone of the series that was set by those earlier arcs. The end of the issue does set up a crime, one that strikes close to home for Dex, so it looks like things are going to speed up very fast from here.

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