Comics Reviews for May 14, 2014

Please note, all the comics that are reviewed below represent those books that I am actually purchasing. What this means is while I would love to review every book that comes out in a given week, comic collecting can get expensive and I can only buy so many. Therefore, some weeks might only contain a few books while other weeks will contain more; it all depends on what I can purchase. It’s the reality of budget comic book buying.

 

Action Comics #31 

Review by John Dubrawa

“Just give me a night’s sleep, a couple hours in the sun, and friends who believe.”
“Just give me a night’s sleep, a couple hours in the sun, and friends who believe.”

Action Comics #31 marks the first chapter in “Superman: Doomed” crossover event and also the first minor detour of writer Greg Pak in an otherwise phenomenal run on the series since issue #25. It’s not as if Action Comics #31 is a bad effort on the part of Pak, it’s that we as readers have had six issues of something much better beforehand. Thankfully, as the first chapter in the event, the issue can be easily digested on its own without the baggage of previous chapters, though mild references to an epic Doomsday/Superman battle from Superman: Doomed #1 permeate throughout. Pak is able to sidestep the fact that there was actually a first first chapter in the event (why call this chapter one?!) with a narrative that deals more with Superman’s friends than the event itself. Seeing the Justice League coming to Superman’s aid and attempting to solve what happened after the Man of Steel’s defeat of Doomsday allows even more supporting characters to populate a book that is already fueled by some excellent ones. But with the event now moving over to Superman/Wonder Woman #8 and then ending in Superman #31, it’s obvious that Pak is biding his time to start his next arc and this narrative is merely a vessel to carry an intriguing but ultimately inconsequential idea forward. It also doesn’t help that regular artist Aaron Kuder is joined by two other artists and three different inkers, resulting in a few art inconsistencies from page to page.

RATING:  [usr 3]

 

All-New Ghost Rider #3

Review by John Dubrawa

“I want to help you, kid. I want to give you the power to fight back. Against the gangs, the bullies, the parents that abandoned you to raise your kid brother on your own.”
“I want to help you, kid. I want to give you the power to fight back. Against the gangs, the bullies, the parents that abandoned you to raise your kid brother on your own.”

Felipe Smith’s All-New Ghost Rider has been one of the more pleasant surprises to come out of Marvel’s “All-New” selection of titles, due to the complexity and compelling nature of the new Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes. Pairing him with a devilish Spirit of Vengeance adds another level to the character, allowing him the ability to choose to get revenge on those people that have wronged him or his wheelchair-bound brother. In All-New Ghost Rider #3, that is the exact choice that Robbie is faced with as the Spirit now named Eli tempts him at each turn. Through Smith’s tight script and Tradd Moore’s exceptional art work, the new power set and origin for Ghost Rider is at last fully realized, allowing Robbie to move onto his first big showdown with a monstrous drug-dealer named Mr. Hyde. Moore’s anime-inspired art is unfathomably perfect for this character and this world, lending a hyper-stylized sheen to something as simple as Robbie turning into Ghost Rider and making it a remarkable visual note. It also allows the over-exaggerated, muscle-bound villains of this current arc to stand out at least visually, even though it’s essentially turning into Ghost Rider against a cavalcade of Hulks.

RATING:  [usr 3.5]

 

Batgirl #31

Review by John Dubrawa

“My way of showing affection puts some people off, frankly.”
“My way of showing affection puts some people off, frankly.”

Batgirl has taken a turn toward the weird in recent months—fending off both a vampire hunter and an urban legend come to life—but this issue is so far the weirdest of them all. Gail Simone takes a wretched villain from her past Secret Six and Birds of Prey runs, a multi-jointed contortionist named Ragdoll and uses him to full, shudder-inducing effect. In Batgirl #31, Ragdoll initially has his sights set not on Barbara Gordon but on her roommate, Alysia, who has fallen in with a group of political activists whose motives are not as non-lethal as advertised. Batgirl’s troubles, however, are not just with this latest threat but also with her “kinda sorta” boyfriend Ricky, still in a hospital bed and now calling for a lawsuit against James Gordon for shooting him. Barbara’s inner-dialogue is as strong as ever under Simone’s pen as it’s difficult not to sympathize with Batgirl when she’s being pulled in different directions over the people that she cares about the most. Speaking of sympathy, Ragdoll is also given a touch of bizarre humanity as a result of Simone not pigeonholing him into the role of an emotionless psychopath that other writers might have. Fernando Pasarin’s art is up to the task of rendering all of Ragdoll’s various contortion as he terrorizes his victims, but I’m still not digging his art overall. His faces are far too over-the-top to be taken seriously and in an issue like this, it hurts the impact of the emotional punches the script dishes out.

RATING:  [usr 3.5]

 

Fantastic Four #4

Review by John Dubrawa

“I keep forgetting that I’ve lost my powers—that I’m just like anybody else now. I’m not fantastic at all.” 
“I keep forgetting that I’ve lost my powers—that I’m just like anybody else now. I’m not fantastic at all.”

There’s a point during Fantastic Four #4 when The Thing tells Mr. Fantastic, “I put two ‘n’ two together on that one already.” It’s a sentiment that can be carried over to the entire issue and so far, James Robinson’s run on the series as a whole. Much of the dialogue used throughout these four issues has been superfluous, used to either comment on what is happening in the panel (which would be effective if this weren’t a visual medium) or spell out each thought that goes through each character’s head. As a result, Robinson wastes a substantial amount of dialogue where Leonard Kirk’s art—easily the best aspect of this revamped book—is already telling the story. In Fantastic Four #4, the team deals with a new Frightful Four that has popped up, but because Reed spends so much time explaining that all of their new villains have had their powers enhanced, the actual narrative that Robinson has been building toward since the first issue remains stagnant. This is supposed to be the penultimate chapter of Robinson’s first arc and we’re so far removed from the bleak future of the team shown in the first issue that I’m not sure one more issue can compensate fully. Hell, there still hasn’t been an explanation for the team’s change into red suits. You’d think with all the talking the team does, someone would have brought it up.

RATING:  [usr 2]

 

Justice League United #1

Review by John Dubrawa

“Great…giant, changing monster. I miss Seattle. In Seattle we just have ninjas and assassins.”
“Great…giant, changing monster. I miss Seattle. In Seattle we just have ninjas and assassins.”

Last month, the comic formerly known as Justice League Canada debuted with Justice League United #0, an issue that for all intents and purposes should have been bore a #1 considering what we have here. Justice League United’s official #1 issue is a solid and more importantly direct continuation of the team’s formation started within the pages of Justice League United #0. On the surface this may seem like a hodgepodge of heroes but writer Jeff Lemire ties them together organically without the need to establish each character individually. Interactions between Animal Man and Green Arrow feel like the two already have an established, natural rapport while the camaraderie between Martian Manhunter and Stargirl from Justice League of America is brought over and developed further. It’s only Adam Strange that has a problem fitting in, coming off as a goofball that can’t operate his nifty new pilot suit. Hawkman and Lobo’s brutal knock-out-drag-out brawl has a similar problem fitting into the story as well, feeling as though it’s a leftover chapter from the former’s short-lived solo series. Mike McKone’s bombastic art style suits the more lighthearted moments of the book, though his details are not as spot-on as I would like. Specifically the sequences involving Adam Strange’s jet pack look as though he’s trailing a giant umbilical cord rather than exhaust flames. It only detracts momentarily from an otherwise delightful first….er, second issue.

RATING:  [usr 3]

John Dubrawa

Greetings true believers! John is the Comics Director of GNN and when he isn’t reading books with pictures and made up words, he can be seen on twitter @thisjohnd or on Facebook. To contact him the old fashioned way, his email address is john.dubrawa@gnnaz.com.

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