It's Wednesday, one of my favorite days of the week: New comic book day! I thought I'd do something new and write up reviews of the comics that I read each week.. I don't have many comic book reading friends and I thought it would be a fun way to share the comics that I read with my non-comic reader friends and maybe start some discussions. So, without further ado, let's dive in!
All-New X-Men #2
For those not aware, it's been a rough couple of years for the X-Men. Lots of their members have died, Cyclops has become a crazy dictator and a schism has divided the team between those who want mutants to overthrow humans and those who just want both sides to live peacefully.
Now, on top of all that, Beast is dying of some unknown illness or complication with his mutation. Beast has been one of the X-Men who has been most torn about how everything has gone with Cyclops rise as mad dictator - He's one of Scott's oldest friends in the world and it pains him greatly to see the evil that he's causing. So, in a last-ditch effort to make a difference before he dies, Beast goes back in time and plucks the young, original X-Men from their timeline, bringing them into the present. It's unclear what his goal is: Educating the young X-Men so they won't make the same mistake? Making Scott come face-to-face with his younger self so he can see how far he's fallen? Whatever the exact reason, it kicks off an adventure of these "little X-Men" in a scary new world.
When I first heard about this storyline, I was hesitant: It seemed a tad gimmicky and trite. And yet... with Bendis at the helm, this has been handled very well. The man is just dynamite with characters, and he's doing an amazing job with showing the relationships both within the team of young X-Men and how they relate to this scary world of the future. I really admire that too much time wasn't spent saying "I don't believe you're from the future! Prove it! Blah blah blah!" Bendis knows why everyone is there and does a splendid job getting right to that "promise of the premise" quickly, but in a way that still feels fun and plausible.
"Fun" is definitely the best way to describe this book. Even though it's dealing with the serious concepts of seeing the consequences of one's actions, how people fall from grace, and the dangers of fanaticism, the book maintains a tone of fun adventure and crazy hi-jinks come. Favorite moments in particular include Iceman of the past (who, at the time could only cover himself in snow as a disguise) seeing the present Iceman, who is now basically a living ice sculpture - His bafflement as his evolution/disfigurement was a fun chuckle.
Issue #1 of this series was a little slow, but #2 is starting to dive right in and I'm loving where it's going!
Stirpe Rating: 4.5/5
Oh Aquaman - This title has had such ups and downs for me. Aquaman is far more of a badass than popular culture gives him credit for, and I love writer Geoff Johns' depictions of him in this comic - The first year of this new volume of Aquaman was great; dealing with this man who doesn't know whether he belongs to the mainland or the sea, trying to figure out how he fits into this brave new world of superheroes...
Unfortunately, somewhere around the one year mark things started to go downhill... The last 4 months or so have been just plain boring. Rather than the fish-out-of-water superhero stories, the narrative has instead been plodding along with stories dealing with Aquaman's convoluted past and his (not-terribly-interesting) cast of side characters.
This whole issue was a conversation between Aquaman and his brother as Aquaman tries to figure out if Atlantis is plotting war on the surface... This was a prologue leading into a bigger story arc titled "Throne of Atlantis" that'll be taking place through the first couple of months of 2013, so it makes sense that it was mostly filler but... geez. This new trend of non-stop drama and angst for Aquaman just isn't cutting it for me. Unless "Throne of Atlantis" is freaking awesome, this title might not last much longer on my pull-list.
Stirpe Rating: 2.5/5
Alright, now THIS is more like it. This is a series that I have been eagerly anticipating for the better part of the fall. To bring you up to speed really quick, Reed Richards, (aka. Mr. Fantastic) has two different "FF"s - There's the Fantastic Four, his crime-fighting team, and then there's the Future Foundation, a school/research facility for furthering science as well as watching over and raising children that are a little... volatile. Clones of supervillains, alien kids, mutants... stuff like that.
The premise here is that Reed Richards realizes that the radiation that gave the Fantastic Four their powers may actually also be killing them, so they need to take a journey to another dimension to find a cure. For them, it'll be a year, but for our dimension it'll only seem like 4 minutes. Still, not wanting to take any chances, Reed decides they need a backup Fantastic Four just in case. Told from the perspective of Scott Lang (aka. Ant-Man), who Reed chooses as his stand-in, this issue is half his first day at the Future Foundation and half the "A few weeks earlier..." segments as the Fantastic Four get their affairs in order.
This issue was primarily set-up, with each of the members recruiting and talking to their replacements-to-be, as well as the different kids and members of the Future Foundation dishing a little bit on who they are and how they're related to the group... Classic "pilot episode" sort of stuff, but it was done very elegantly and in funny, informative ways. I've been incredibly out-of-touch with the Fantastic Four or the Future Foundation for years, so this was a great intro issue for me.
I have no idea where this series will be going, but it's got a delightfully goofy sense of humor (The Human Torch forgets that he was supposed to appoint a stand-in and just ends up volunteering the "aspiring actress" that he slept with the night before) and the art style is fan-friggin'-tastic. This is one that I'm positive will quickly become a favorite of mine.
Stirpe Rating: 5/5
The Flash #14
Man, how to bring non-comics people up to speed on this one... Okay, basically there's a semi-mystical energy force called The Speed Force that gives The Flash his powers and simultaneously keeps time moving in the same direction. There's also an insane, hyper-intelligent gorilla that believes he's the rightful heir to The Speed Force, manages to steal some of it and is now wreaking havoc on the Flash's hometown with an army of super-smart gorilla soldiers.
Phew. Anyways. This has been going on for a few issues now and #14 was what I call a "brawler" issue: Not much happens story-wise and it's basically a long, drawn-out fight scene. Luckily for me, the tag-team duo of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato is awesome and managed to make this extended fight scene fun and exciting to read; their depiction of Barry Allen (aka. The Flash) has a great sense of humor and a real humanity about him. Watching him up against an opponent that truly outclasses him is cool, and it's fun to see The Flash's rogues and villains fighting for their own lives against an army of gorillas as well.
All in all, not an amazing issue, but no slouch either. The art was terrific, the writing was fun... I just wish there was more of a story propelling things right now than "The Flash needs to beat Gorilla Grodd or he's going to take over the city!"
Stirpe Rating: 3/5
New Avengers #34
Can I tell you a secret? I have been downright clueless about what's been happening in New Avengers. This accidentally ended up on my pull-list a few months ago and I keep forgetting to take it off. The New Avengers are an off-shoot of the Avengers proper; a kind of B-team that watches the farm while the Avengers are away and, the last few months, a battle has been raging at the Avengers Mansion involving a lot of voodoo and magic...
A lot of it has been centering around Doctor Strange, the ex-Sorcerer Supreme and chief magic-doer of The Avengers and some shady thing that happened in his past with a guy named Daniel Drumm. Meanwhile, Luke Cake and his wife have been trying to quit the Avengers and move away for like 6 months now? He keeps leaving and getting pulled back in, etc. etc.
What keeps me coming back to this series, despite being confused to hell about the overall plot, is Bendis's writing because he is so good at characters. His dialogue, comedy, and ability to write the team is fantastic and I've been reading this, confused or not, just loving the interactions of the characters and watching their arcs. This, being the final issue of New Avengers, was wrapping up a lot of storylines (some I was familiar with, others not so much) and so it wasn't terribly interesting plot-wise, (particularly the first half, which was just the big final fight scene...) but after the fight finished there were some really touching emotional moments as the team dissolved and Luke Cage finally got to quit.
It's a testament to what a good creative team this book has, when I was able to enjoy the big concluding issue despite missing 75% of the setup - Bravo to those guys!
Stirpe Rating: 3/5
Teen Titans #14
A lot of the comics DC has been putting out since The New 52 relaunch have been hit or miss for me, (particularly after issue 10 or so...) but one that I've been consistently at least enjoying has been Teen Titans. A rag-tag bunch of misfits, freaks and runaways, the Titans spent most of the last 13 issues fighting and bickering about not wanting to be a team. It was on the verge of getting stale, which is why it's so nice to see them finally coming to terms with being a team.
The dynamic of the team is just so nice; with each character having their own secrets and pasts which get teased just the right amount (some more so than others) which nicely inform what they do and why. This issue was sort of the bow tying up Wonder Girl's origin and history, as she defeated a lost love, overcame her insecurities about her identity, and finally embraced the idea of fighting for something. Seeing Red Robin come into his own as a respected leader is great too, and I love seeing the flamboyant Bunker and hyperactive Kid Flash becoming the sort of "comic relief" of the team. Overall, the sense of humor that this book has, combined with pretty good art and just the right amount of angst (enough to create intrigue and drama, not so much as to drag everything else down) makes this one pretty consistent for me. Before The New 52 relaunch, Teen Titans was arguably my very favorite comic on the market; unfortunately this new volume doesn't even come close to that series, but I'm hoping if it keeps going the way it's going it might come into it's own.
Stirpe Rating: 3.5/5
Final thoughts for the week:
With the exception of the first week of FF, this was kind of a soft week for me. With none of my usual big favorites coming out this week (Wolverine & The X-Men, Batman, Amazing Spider-Man) I didn't have huge anticipation for this week (with the exception of the aforementioned FF #1). Sure enough, Teen Titans, The Flash, and New Avengers were all enjoyable, if nothing earth-shattering. Luckily, FF #1 met and surpassed my expectations and I had the very nice surprise of just how much I enjoyed All-New X-Men #2, so that made up for the disappointment of Aquaman #14 and added up to a pretty good week for comics.