Monday, November 23, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 11/18

Bizzaro #6
Story: Heath Corson
Art: Gustavo Duarte  & Pete Pantazis with guest page from Tim Sale & Dave Stewart

Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen's road trip ends with quite a bang, an issue full of guest stars, guest artists, and some really heartfelt moments. After last issue when Bizarro found out Jimmy was travelling with him to produce a photo book of the trip, Superman's imperfect clone left Jimmy in the Nevada desert and headed back to Metropolis. While Jimmy is quickly captured by Queen Tut, the nemesis he and Bizarro made back in issue one, seeking revenge for Bizarro hypnotizing her dad, King Tut (the pharaoh of used car sales), into thinking he's a chicken, Bizarro meets Superman. This is the first meeting between Bizarro and Superman in the new continuity of the post-Flashpoint DC Universe, an d it's a very different meeting than you'd expect. No blows are exchanged, and Bizarro simply gets to talk to Superman, the conversation starting with a beautiful splash page by Time Sale in his Superman for All Seasons mode. The Superman who appears here feels like the wiser, more worldly and friendly Superman of the pre-Flashpoint world (there's even a joke about the missing red trunks), and his conversation with Bizarro about friendship and Bizarro listens and understands, heading out to save Jimmy when Queen Tut threatens Jimmy on national TV. During the battle, all the friends Bizarro has made, from bounty hunter Chastity Hex, to Kilowog, to Zatannam to a pair of FBI agents that look suspiciously familiar if you followed a certain '90s TV show about the paranormal, come in to lend a hand, even Colin the alien chupacabra, who returns from space. It's a big, silly, exciting action comic, and ends with Bizarro and Jimmy reconciling, working on the book together, and arriving at Canada to the nicest bum's rush you've ever seen (they're Canadian after all). With the adventure over, the pair return to Metropolis and whatever adventures might remain in the future. Bizarro was one of the best mini-series that came out of the most recent DC wave of titles; it was fine, all ages fair, and I hope that we get another adventure from Bizarro and Jimmy soon. By the way, I considered writing most of this revue in Bizarro speech, but after two sentences, I wanted to smack myself, so I could only imagine how you would have felt. You're welcome.

Harley Quinn #22
Story: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Chad Hardin & Alex Sinclair

Harley Quinn is one of those books that is so consistently good that it sometimes falls off my review radar because it's hard to find something new to say. But this week's new issue is such a perfect example of everything that's great about this book, it's a good time to call it out. After an adventure in Hollywood, Harley is returning home with a bunch of new acquisitions, courtesy of Deadshot's stolen credit cards, only to find plenty of problems waiting. Zena Bendemova, Russian femme fatale and nemesis of Sy Borgman, the geriatric cyborg who lives in the retirement home that Harley works at in her day job, has been resurrected by her grandson, and she has sworn revenge against Harley and Sy. Plus, Harley's current boyfriend, Mason, is in jail for manslaughter and has a hit out on him in jail. These are the kind of things Harley has to deal with on a day to day basis. After being attacked by some of Zena's amazonian warriors (amazonian with a small a; they're big and tough and female, not from Paradise Island) in a fight scene that is equal parts funny and brutal, Harley gets home to find out about Mason and the fact that Zena, or since Harley doesn't know she's back from the dead someone who is working out Zena's vendetta, has kidnapped Sy, Harley has to divide and conquer. She splits up her Gang of Harleys, taking some to save Mason and leaving the others to track down Sy. That's a lot to happen on one issue to begin with, and its interspersed with Harley getting some revenge on rude construction workers,  a scene of Mason narrowly averting being murdered, and Harley having a sweet talk with a nice man she met on the plane back from L.A. Writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have created a wide and diverse cast for Harley, from her gang of Harleys to the tenants of her building and the people at her nursing home, and we get to see a little bit of everyone in this issue, which never feels overwrought or busy. It's a great comic, and if you're reading a title like Deadpool and haven't tried Harley Quinn, you should really jump on now.

Orphan Black: Helsinki #1
Story: John Fawcett, Graeme Manson, Heli Kennedy, & Dennis Tipton
Art: Alan Quah, Jeffrey Huet, & Chris Fenoglio

IDW's first mini-series based on the best sci-fi show (and a contender for best show period) on TV right now, Orphan Black, filled in little details about the backgrounds of our principal clone cast. This new series tells the story of events hinted at in the most recent season of the show, the wiping out of a group of clones in Helsinki. It's a completely different cast from the show, so all bets are off on who will and won't survive, and since the story comes from the show's creators, this is official canon. Our principal clone this series is Veera Suominen, a teenage clone with burn scars in her face we met briefly at the end of last series. When Veera finds the uncle she has been living with had spying devices in her room and the name of two other girls on his computer, she runs away to find the nearest of those girls and expose her uncle's child pornography operation. Of course, readers know he's really monitoring them for the cloning project, but Veera doesn;t know that, and so she heads to find Niki Lintula, who lives nearby. To do this, the socially isolated Veera, a girl who's scars make her stand out and who has been home schooled to keep her away from other children, infiltrates Niki's scool. It's heartbreaking to see Veera try to interact with other kids and freezes up when doing it, and to see what happens when she sees Niki, who is a flawless, blonde version of herself. The issue doesn't have a lot of the science fiction and action that are a part of Orphan Black, but it succeeds in being a strong study of a character, really getting into Veera's head in a way that TV can't, with a story narrated exclusively by her. It also succeeds in capturing the atmosphere of Orphan Black, with a sense of disconnection and paranoia as a clone begins to understand so much of what she believes about the world isn't right, multiplied in this case tenfold by Veera's isolation. It's a strong start to the series, one that looks to add an important chapter to the overall mythos of Orphan Black.

Star Wars #12
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Justin Ponsor

Back when he was writing The Authority, Warren Ellis talked about widescreen storytelling in comics. He was talking not just about page layouts with big panels and lots of action, but a certain way stories should be told, with those same sensibilities in mind. If there is any comic that should have that kind of thinking, it's Star Wars, the movie franchise that defined modern widescreen movies. The last part of the second arc of Marvel's new Star Wars series is a widescreen story, packed to the gills with action and adventure. We get a small battle between Han, Leia, Chewie, and the bounty hunter Dengar, followed by a huge battle in Grakkus the Hutt's arena with monsters and stromtroopers that ends with a visually stunning moment or two that I don't want to give away. I know some purists will be bothered by that moment, but it's one of those things that I have to get past my inner fanboy and embrace my inner child, what it would have looked like if I was a kid see certain characters doing something that you never saw them do in the movies that is just plain awesome. I want to see more of Grakkus, a Hutt who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty, and Sgt. Kreel, the stormtrooper undercover in Grakkus's operation. But mixed in with all the action, we get some nice character moments for Princess Leia and Sana, the woman claiming to be Han Solo's wife, so the issue isn't a wall-to-wall actionfest. Add in a last page cameo from Darth Vader, and you get a comic that any casual Star Wars fan would love, and one that does some nice things for us diehards. This week also saw the release of the one-shot that kicks off the first Marvel Star Wars crossover, "Vader Down," which is also an excellent comic and a great jumping on point if you want to try out some Star Wars comics before The Force Awakens.

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #1
Story: Robert Venditti
Art: Raul Allen & Patricia Martin

When we last saw Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior, at the end of Valiant's Book of Death event mini-series, he was, well, dead. This issue shows readers what happens when Gilad dies, but before he returns from the dead, and after seeing the fields of the Deadside filled with monsters,we see where he awakens, and it is not what you might expect. Gilad arrives in a heaven of his own making, with his wife and children waiting for him and excited to see him. But they all know that it's only temporary. Leena, Gila's wife, is especially saddened by the fact she knows Gilad will be leaving them again sooner than they'd like. The issue is mostly an idyllic domestic scene, with Gilad playing with his children, eating a fine dinner, and lying with his wife. I'm curious to known a little more about Gilad's heaven, as the children clearly have different mothers, and I wonder if these are all the children Gilad has fathered in his six thousand years of life; also I am curious to see what more wwe will learn of Kalam, Gilad's eldest child in this realm, who spends his days stubbornly shooting arrows into targets Robin Hood style, splitting arrow after arrow. Is he . Gilad is so often portrayed as this unstoppable, resolute force, the fist and steel of the Earth, that it makes for  very different scene to see him not only with his family in a place where he doesn't need to fight, but more to see how tired he seems as he tell's Leena of his most recent "trip." And to think that Gilad and his family views this afterlife as his true home and the world of the living as the place he goes on business trips makes it even sadder than Gilad knows that he must return. And as the issue ends and he hears the voices of the monsters that exist in the Deadside waiting for him to begin his trip back, we know that it isn't a simple thing for him to just will himself back to life. Robert Venditti's script is excellent, but Raul Allen's art takes it to a whole other level. He draws both the agrarian beauty of Gilad's farm haven and the nightmare of the blasted Deadside with equal adeptness, and his Gilad in particular is expressive; you can see in his eyes all six thousand years he has lived. Eternal Warrior was my favorite character from classic Valiant, and I've enjoyed his other series and his appearances in other titles, but the first issue of Wrath of the Eternal Warrior feels like the beginning of the series that this character deserves, a blend of magic, history, and character. If you've never read a Valiant title before, this is the time to start.

And because we know you can't get enough, Dan Grote reviews this week's new Deadpool...

Deadpool #2
Story:  Gerry Duggan
Art: Mike Hawthorne, Terry Pallot, & Val Staples

Something is rotten in Deadmark. More on that later.

The first issue of the all-new, all-different adventures of Wade Wilson & Co. set up all the players on the board, both new and old, but this issue focuses largely on Deadpool’s new team of mercenaries, who have grown tired of running pro bono missions and generally doing more good works than good-paying ones, “like we’re Santas that bring justice,” per Terror.

To teach them a lesson, DP sends them on a paying gig in which a landlord aims to evict to the decent, hard-working tenants in his building so he can turn the units into condos. Suddenly, some of the mercs develop a conscience, and we see what they do with their ill-gotten gains.

While they all begrudgingly wear the same costumes and are obsessed with getting paid, the creative team is doing a good job of making each member of Deadpool’s Heroes for Hire a distinct personality. Slapstick, who should be another irritating source of comic relief, a la Deadpool or Madcap, is completely miserable but still looks like someone sprayed silly string all over the Joker’s head and then drew him into an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Madcap is obsessed with hats and speaks in his now-trademark Courier New balloons, while all the other Deadpools speak in Wade’s classic yellow balloons when the masks are on. Solo is the handsome one in the James Bond/Jason Bourne vein and among the earliest to develop a conscience, with Stingray, the former Avenger and lone Deadpool capable of flight, not far behind. Foolkiller is the most hardened of the lot, still money uber alles in the face of everything. Terror, the human organ harvester, appears to be the same way, then gives his cut of the inappropriate-eviction gig to the wife and son of an abusive man whom he proceeds to beat the living crap out of.

Issue’s end returns us to Deadpool HQ, where we sadly are forced to say goodbye to a member of Wade’s now-former family. I won’t say who, but I will say that someone is pretending to be the real Deadpool, the one in the black-and-red suit with the hood whose fashion sense I so highly praised last time around (seriously, get on the POP variant, Funko). Who the impostor is is not revealed, but it does have something to do with the truth about who killed Deadpool’s parents.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go pour some sizzurp on the concrete for [redacted].

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