Monday, March 23, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 3/18

Batgirl: Endgame #1
Story: Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher
Art: Bengal

The silent comic isn't easy to do. I've read quite a few of them over the years, and I have often found them confusing. The artist has to have a very strong sense of storytelling, and I can only imagine the writer has to provide a strong script, or have a strong relationship with the artist, so they know the style the writer is trying to convey. The Batgirl one shot tying into the big Joker story running in Batman right now, "Endgame" is one of those really strong silent comics. Batgirl, who has been living in Bristol, one of the outer boroughs of Gotham, stands defending the bridge from the main city as those not infected by the Joker's toxin flee before the bridge is blown. It's a taut, well paced story, with legions of grinning, Joker looking Gothamites try to kill those who remain uninfected; it's a zombie apocalypse with a really creepy laugh track. But if the Jokers aren't enough of a problem, Tiffany Fox, daughter of Lucius Fox, has been separated from her parents, and Batgirl has to rescue her form the sea of Jokers. The Foxes were featured supporting cast members in the last year of Batwing, but haven't shown up as a family since then, and if you know the hardships they went through there, a reader can only imagine the devastation of losing their surviving daughter. So Batgirl uses a combination of brains and skills to save the girl. She also has help from Frankie Charles, her roommate who in the most recent issue of Batgirl (#40, also on sale this week, and a fine comic in its own right), joined Batgirl's crusade, seemingly as a new Oracle of sorts. Bengal is an artist I'm not familiar with, but his art is perfect for this issue. His Jokers are creepy, grinning ghouls, and his Jker (the real one, not the infected people) who appears on a screen briefly has an air of menace and madness. But it's the scene where Batgirl has to communicate with Tiffany over a distance using hand signals that sold me. The facial expressions and hand gestures are more eloquent than many words balloons. This is a great comic to show how far Batgirl has come as a character, confident and strong in the face of the man who crippled her; if the New 52 Batgirl needed an issue where she proved she had moved beyond the trauma of the Joker, this was the one.

Invisible Republic #1
Story: Gabriel Hardman & Corinna Bechko
Art: Gabriel Hardman

The dystopian sci-fi is a genre unto itself, and Image comics has some great ones going right now, with LazarusEast of West, and the recently launched Descender. But I figured I'd give Invisible Republic a shot, on the strength of its creators alone. Hardman and Bechko did a tremendous job on the second volume of Star Wars: Legacy, exceeding all  my expectations, and another science fiction story seems right up their alley. And it did not disappoint. On Avalon, a distant world, reporter Croger Babb is getting nowhere asking people about how they felt when the Malory Regime fell. There's no explanation of what the Malory Regime was, but you don't need it. The look of the world, and the reaction people are giving Babb, makes it pretty clear things haven't been good on Avalon for quite sometime. And things for Babb aren't looking much better until he finds a bum burning stacks of paper. He buys the paper and settles in to read it, after we see that he is not exactly looked upon well by his fellow reporters, and we flash back to a time before Avalon was settled, when people had just arrived, before faster than light travel had been perfected, and to two people on the run: Maia Reveron, who wrote the memoir, and her cousin, Arthur McBride. Again, we enter in medias res, with Maia and Arthur camping alone on a beach, hungry and seemingly cast out. But an encounter with soldiers turns quickly brutal, as the soldiers attempt to talk them into joining the army of the Commonwealth, and when they are refused decide to simply conscript them. The fight scene is brutal, and it's clear that Arthur has a killer's instinct, while Maia has a softer heart, something that I can only imagine will come back to bite them, as she spares one of the soldiers after Arthur kills the other two. The final page reveal sets up the direction of the series, as it turns out Arthur eventually became the strongman and dictator of Avalon. It feels like we'll be watching the creation of a monster in one narrative, while Babb will be dealing with the fallout of Arthur's regime in the other. While this is a first issue, the world has a lived in feel; it's familiar without being derivative, like watching Alien for the first time. Hardman's art, with it's gritty textures, perfectly suits a world in decline. If Image keeps releasing new, smart, and interesting series like Invisible Republic, I might as well just hand my wallet over.

The Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond the Stars #1
Story: Jonathan Hickman
Art:Nick Pitarra

After returning from hiatus, it's nice to see that Manhattan Projects hasn't lost a step; it is still the craziest comic out there. This first issue of the new mini-series, The Sun Beyond the Stars, has a slightly tighter focus than the previous volume, with it's sprawling cast. The opening sequence, which feels like the teaser to a science fiction movie, introduces us to Primor, a mad alien scientist, and the Sionna Science Union, the government that he seems to have it out for. Primor's weapon of choice are spores that seem to sprout world killing monsters, and he has no problem obliterating planets and betraying allies to get them. Primor escapes at the end of the teaser, but if we've been taught anything by the first volume, is that nothing stops a mad scientist from attaining his goal, so I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing Primor again soon. The main story of the issue begins with finding Yuri Gagarin, cosmonaut, imprisoned on a space station, in a holding cell, hearing the story of an alien named Garru who apparently ate all the young of an entire species by accident, thus committing genocide. Yuri is apparently here for a parking violation, his ship wandering into the area as he looked for his lost dog, Laika, shot out into space during the last volume. We get a particularly funny court scene, when Yuri and Garru are brought before Ryleth the Hammer, and we learn Garru's full name, or at least his known alias. It's by no means safe for work, and I try to keep the swearing to a minimum on here, but it struck me as so funny I got an odd look from my wife as I laughed violently at it while sitting on the couch. The issue ends with Yuri and Ryleth heading to a bar, and a reunion, one that does not go exactly as expected. Jonathan Hickman is a writer who tends towards huge casts and crazy ideas flying every which way. But this issue, along with his recently launched The Dying and the Dead, are more intimate stories, focusing on one character. That doesn't mean the ideas are any less crazy or interesting, and that the books don't feel like Hickman stories. And Nick Pitarra is working at the top of his game, with wonderful and completely original alien designs. I'm curious to see where the rest of the cast of the Manhattan Projects are, or whether this will be a Yuri and Laika story exclusively, and exactly what Primor is up to. It's bad science all over again, and I couldn't be happier.

Dan Grote brings us a review of a Matt Signal favorite writer working with everyone's favorite Merc with a Mouth...

Deadpool’s Art of War TPB
Story: Peter David
Art: Scott Koblish

While Deadpool defies normal comic book conventions as a rule, he tends to defy the most rules in his miniseries. He’s killed alternate versions of himself, classic literary characters, and even the entire Marvel Universe.

In Deadpool’s Art of War, Marvel’s mirthful mercenary runs through Sun Tzu – the original author of the text from which this series takes its cues – changes Loki back to his classic look (while taking pot shots at J. Michael Straczynski and Matt Fraction in the process) and destroys Manhattan by pitting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes against the combined forces of the Nine Realms (That’s right, nine; Angela’s not in this one), in a battle that will never be spoken of again.

All this is so that Deadpool can publish his own version of The Art of War and make money. All he has to do is convince the Norse god of mischief to wage war on Midgard.

Peter David seems such a natural fit for Deadpool – a humor-driven character with occasional bouts of pathos – that it’s nearly unbelievable he hasn’t written him before, save, apparently, for an off-panel cameo in X-Factor. Artist Scott Koblish makes things fit even more like a glove, having penciled ’Pool in Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s (nearly over) ongoing series. Koblish drew the flashback issues in the main title, such as when Deadpool teams up with Power Man and Iron Fist against the White Man or when he teams up with Iron Man against alcoholism. Koblish excels at drawing DP in when-in-Rome-style costumes, and he gives Wade a pretty sweet/ridiculous Asgardian helmet early on in the book, while he’s playing Loki against Thor.

Look for guest appearances from all your favorite Asgardians – except Angela – and pretty much all of Earth’s heroes, from the Avengers to the Fantastic Four to the X-Men. Also, because Loki is waging war on Manhattan and the Hulk makes an appearance, look for an easy nod to the Avengers movie.

(Please note: I wasn't able to find a good image of the cover to the trade paperback of this series, so that is the cover to issue #1.) 

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