Monday, June 20, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 6/15

Batman #1
Story: Tom King
Art: David Finch, Matt Banning, & Jordie Bellaire

The first issue of the new, Rebirth-era Batman begins with a literal bang and continues to show a Batman dedicated to Gotham and the safety of its people, a Batman at his most heroic. After a plane is hit by a surface-to-air missile, Batman must find a way to stop it from hitting the center of the city, even at the cost of his own life. It's an exciting start to the new run, and highlights the strengths of both of the writer and artist. Tom King has a great talent for mixing character and action, and we see Batman interact with Jim Gordon, Alfred, and Duke Thomas as he speeds across Gotham. We get a mix of Batman the superhero and Batman the scientist, as he uses his intellect to figure out the best way to maneuver a crashing plane. And we get some clues about what is coming in this first arc, with the first cameo appearances of Gotham City's newest defenders, the super powered Gotham and his sidekick, Gotham Girl, and while they seem noble enough, one has to wonder; the shadowy figure standing over the murdered body of the Kobra cultist who fired the missile at the plane does not seem to be Gotham, but we know it's not Batman or one of his allies, and how much better an entrance can a flying, super strong hero make than one where he stops a plane from crashing. We have no reason to suspect Gotham, other than he's not one of Batman's circle, but I have my eye on him. David Finch has a history with Batman, from his writer/artist stint on Batman: The Dark Knight to his work on Forever Evil. This issue is as big and bold in the art as it is in the story. He draws a string, muscular Batman who still looks like he'd be able to move with the grace needed to swing around Gotham. You can sense the motion and the straining as he uses a combination of tech and brute force to keep the plane from hitting Kane Plaza. It's simply stunning. And the new Batmobile design he uses is clearly based on the classic Batman: The Animated Series model. After four plus years of one writer on Batman, it's always going to be a transition, but this issue, maintaining much of the previous central cast while springboarding into something new, is a great choice, and it's a great start for the new volume of Batman.

Justice League #51
Story: Dan Abnett
Art: Paul Pelletier, Sandra Hope, & Adriano Lucas

I think I've made this observation before, but in case I haven't, there is nothing wrong with a simple, fun superhero story; in fact, at times that's one of the best things you can read. I picked up all eight issue's of Dan Abnett's recent Titans Hunt mini-series, and also this week's Titans: Rebirth one-shot, and they're all enjoyable superhero books, but this week's Justice League, also written by Abnett and tying into those stories, is one of those perfect one off issues. Set in the past, shortly after the forming of the Justice League, the issue tells the story of Dick Grasyon, Robin's, first meeting with the League. Most of the members make snarky comments about Batman and his sidekick as they meet him, and Dick just quietly lets it all pass. As various weird objects begin appearing all over the world, cybernetic hounds attack Metropolis and the League springs into action. It's Robin who we follow for much of the issue, seeing him intimidated by the League, and then seeing him slowly win each Leaguer over with his brains and skill. Especially interesting is the interaction between Robin and Cyborg, as Cyborg is the youngest member of the League, and understands where Robin is coming from. I'm also hoping we see some more flashbacks with these two characters together; while Cyborg gained a lot in the New 52 continuity by becoming a founding member of the Justice League, I feel he lost the connections he had to his old friends, and that has weakened the character. To see him working with Dick Grayson, one of his old friends, again, it was a great scene. As the different threats come together, as the League deduces the problem, it turns into a classic battle of brains and brawn against unstoppable odds, a story right out of classic Justice League comics.There are hints that tie it into the current events in Titans, but the issue stands firmly on its own, something I always like to support. And the artist on the issue, Paul Pelletier, is one of my favorite artists; he draws strong, distinct character moments as well as exciting action scenes, and has worked for years on most of the big properties for both DC and Marvel. If you're looking for a palette cleanser from all the big events comics right now, and want something pretty self contained and fun, Justice League #51 is a great choice.

Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat #7
Story: Kate Leth
Art: Brittney L. Williams & Megan Wilson

The new issue of Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat feels like the calm before the storm, the issue that ties up all the treads from the beginning of the series before something momentous happens. For this of you who are more familiar with the Jessica Jones TV series than the comics that feature these characters, Jessica's BFF in the comics is not Patricia "Patsy" ("Trish") Walker, but is Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel. I have to assume because of the movie in development, Marvel didn't want to introduce Carol on the Netflix series, so Trish took her place. This issue features the first full meeting between Patsy and Jessica in comics continuity, as Jessica tries to help Patsy deal with her ex-best friend, Hedy Wolfe and the rights to the old "Patsy and Hedy" comics. We get to spend some time with the entire supporting cast Patsy has built over the series so far: her old friend Tom, her roommate Ian, and of course her lawyer and friend Jen Walters, the super heroine known as She-Hulk. We even get an appearance from Jen's paralegal, Angie Huang, and her pet monkey, Hei Hei, introduced in Charles Soule's wonderful She-Hulk series. It's a charming issue with very little action, and a ton of character, where we get to see who Patsy is and why her friends are so loyal, and why she's so loyal to them. I'm hoping that the appearance by Jessica (as well has her husband, Luke Cage, and their baby, Danielle), will become a regular thing in the series, as it's nice to see the Jones-Cages not fighting for their lives but living as a family. And in the end, things work out for Patsy, and not a single punch is thrown. It's a matter of Jen being smart and Patsy being determined. You reach the end of this issue, and you smile. And I'm glad about that, because Civil War II is not going to be a happy event for Patsy, and it's good to get in a nice win before the darkness descends.

Dan Grote reviews Mavel's political satire, as the God of Mischief decides to run for office...

Vote Loki #1
Story: Christopher Hastings
Art: Langdon Foss and Chris Chuckry

The idea of Loki running for president in the current election cycle feels like low-hanging fruit for Marvel, but in the right hands, said fruit can still be delicious.

Loki’s current iteration as a gender-fluid, morally ambiguous, oddly sexy, de-aged hipster viking (thank you thank you thank you for that turn of phrase, G. Willow Wilson!) has opened up new storytelling possibilities for the character just as much as his portrayal on-screen by Tom Hiddleston.

And writer Christopher Hastings (Gwenpool) and artist Langdon Foss play with all of that as we watch the trickster god thwart an assassination attempt by Hydra on the two leading presidential candidates, then call out said candidates for being liars while at the same time saying, “America, if I were your president, I’d have the guts to lie right to your face. And you’d love it.”

This on-air soundbite turns Loki into a media darling, complete with “Saturday Night Live” sketches, memes and interviews with J. Jonah Jameson.

Watching all this with a cocked eyebrow is Nisa Contreras, a journalist who as a child lost her home in a battle between the Avengers and Loki, then watched as New York’s then-governor funneled money donated by Tony Stark for rebuilding into his own re-election fund.

Nisa investigates Loki, who agrees to let her follow his exploratory campaign in a bid to win her over. But she can’t tell what power play Loki is making until after she files her story, which her Loki-enthralled editor rewrites into a positive piece that gives big L the juice he needs to formally announce his campaign. This brings Nisa some unwanted attention at issue’s end from a special guest star with skin in the Loki game.

There’s some great little moments in this issue that play with the Loki mythos. At one point, he takes a female form – still with horned helmet – because he thinks it might help him poll better with women. When Jameson questions Loki about his citizenship, he explains that his current incarnation – Asgardians die and are reborn in cycles – was born in the tiny town of Accident, Maryland. Oh, and his polling employees may all be doomsday cultists.

Vote Loki probably won’t make you feel any better about the actual presidential election, but it will at least scratch any itches you have for political satire this summer.

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