Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 1/14

Star Trek #40
Story: Mike Johnson
Art: Tony Shasteen

"The Q Gambit" wraps up, ending the most exciting Star Trek story I've read since Peter David wrapped his New Frontier series. Mashing up the new versions of the Trek crew with the cast of Deep Space Nine (my favorite Trek series) was a stroke of genius; DS9 had a darker feeling than the earlier series, one more akin to the hanging dread of war that permeates Abrams universe. This issue pulls Q himself front and center. Q has been popping up, making cryptic statements and wry observations throughout most of the series, but now he has to act. He has to work with the crew of the Enterprise and the Defiant to stop the Pah Wraiths, another race of godlike energy beings, from winning the day. Writer Mike Johnson does a very cool thing, which is tie the different cosmic races of the Star Trek universe together. If there are so many races that have these incredible powers (The Q Continuum, The Pah Wraith, The Prophets), why don't they ever interact? Well, Johnson ties that together nicely. And while Kirk gets off a good speech about there never being a no win situation as long as he has his crew, it's Spock who saves the day, using his Vulcan logic to come up with what is a simple solution to how Q can defeat the Pah Wraiths. The story has captured the personalities of both casts perfectly, and I love how Johnson has portrayed Gul Dukat, DS9's chief villain with his powers. We got a glimpse of that in the TV series, but to see Dukat in his full glory, wielding his power like the worst kind of monster but doing it with a smug self satisfaction, in this series was a treat. The series ends with the status quo reset, and very few remembering what has occurred, but still leaving open the potential for Q to return. Tony Shasteen has done a great job on the art for this arc, and he pulls out all the stops this issue, especially in the brief combat between energy beings, as Q battles the Pah Wraiths; it's a great visual, especially as Q gives Dukat what he so rightly deserves. The last page is a sting, a perfect moment between Q and an old friend that encapsulates their relationship and just makes anyone who knows these characters smile. With the story complete, I can wholeheartedly recommend this story to fans of Star Trek in any of it's incarnations.

Star Wars #1
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: John Cassaday

I went into this debut issue of the new Marvel era of Star Wars comics looking at it in a couple of different ways. I looked at it as a comic that would be either the first Star Wars comic some people might read or the first they read in a long time. I looked at it as a longtime, hardcore Star Wars fan. In one respect I was very impressed. In the other I wasn't as impressed, but still enjoyed it. As an introductory comic to the new era, and to welcome people into this new era, I thought it was an unequivocal success. It has everything someone who just knows Star Wars from the movies would want: the entire classic cast, action, a touch of humor. Jason Aaron gets the voices of the classic characters spot on, and John Cassaday's art is gorgeous, capturing the looks of the characters and the feeling of the world. It's not weighed down by any heavy continuity, and is just an all around good comic. If you are brand new to Star Wars, this is great. As someone who has read every Star Wars comic ever published, this is a perfectly fine comic. It does all the things I said above, which makes it good., But it also doesn't break any new ground. I've read so many stories like this over the years I wasn't wowed by any innovations. I know, as someone who loves superhero comics, that's a funny thing to say, since they are built on not really innovating, and I also wasn't expecting any innovations, which is why I can still say I liked this comic. One moment that Aaron did work in that jumped out at me was having Luke liberate a group of slaves. Slavery was mentioned in the classic trilogy, but was never really drawn out. It became a more important element in the prequel trilogy, with Anakin being a former slave, and has featured in episodes of both The Clone Wars and Rebels. It being a major plot point here makes me wonder if the slave trade will be a part of the upcoming films as well. Nonetheless, this is a good comic and a solid introduction to the world of Star Wars, so if you're looking to dip your toe into the new Star Wars continuity, this is a great place to start. On an semi-related note, if you haven't tried Star Wars: Rebels yet, this is the week to do it. Last night's new episode "Idiot's Array,"had the crew of the Ghost, our heroes, meet a gambler and entrepreneur named Lando Calrissian, voiced by Billy Dee Williams, and it was everything you could hope for.

And from Dan Grote...

S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
Story by Mark Waid
Art by Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado

So far, in the short time I’ve been doing reviews for The Matt Signal, this is the first No. 2 I’ve picked up and liked enough to write about. Mark Waid’s character work is great, and the done-in-one stories mean readers can pick it up whenever they darn well please.

This go-round, Agent Phil Coulson shares the spotlight with Agent Gemma Simmons, who we learn has a strained relationship with her father, a Roxxon bigwig, because the classified nature of her work requires her to lie to him about what she actually does for a living.

Simmons goes undercover as substitute teacher Ms. Steranko (GET IT?!) at Coles Academic High School in Jersey City, the stomping grounds of one Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, to stop a supervillain-tech smuggling ring.

I haven’t read much of Kamala’s interactions with the wider Marvel Universe outside her own book, but I loved her back-and-forth with Coulson and the way Waid pits the guy who keeps a journal of superhero fight scenarios against the girl who writes Avengers fanfic.

Warning: This issue is not for emetophobes. Artist Humberto Ramos (Amazing Spider-Man) draws multiple panels of teenagers throwing up pizza accidentally cooked using the blob of organic material that is Doughboy, a creation of Arnim Zola’s that dates to Jack Kirby’s run on Captain America in the ’70s. Hey, didn’t I just write about that? Now, if they could just bring that back walking pair of ears with the big eyeballs.

In the end, Simmons and Kamala bond over that classic do-gooder trope of having to keep your double life a secret from those you love, and how much it can hurt. But then Gemma gives Ms. M her business card, and it’s back to squee’ing for our newest favorite teen hero.

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