The Pull List: Comic Book Reviews for 8/24/11

Welcome to another posting of Stuff We Like’s look at a handful of the week’s newly released comic books! To see a full list of books that were released this week please click here.

 

The Bionic Man #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)

Written by KEVIN SMITH w/ PHIL HESTER
Art by JONATHAN LAU

When a woman behind a locked door is screaming “You’re the biggest coward I’ve ever met” precedes the introduction of a protagonist you know you are in for some drama. Having never seen a single episode of The Bionic Man in my life I can honestly say that I had no interest in this book at all when I first heard about its upcoming release. I had nothing against franchise; it was just before my time. But like the many remakes presently making the rounds in Hollywood, this remake of a cult classic jumped out at me with a fresh reimagining of how this tale would fit in the modern world.

Originally written as a movie by Kevin Smith, this book has been adapted to the comic format by the amazing Phil Hester. Having recently seen success using this very same procedure on The Green Hornet, Dynamite seems to have a knack for making failed Hollywood experiments work as sequential story. Could the failed Smith Superman tale be next? Either way, the team of Smith and Hester works well on this project balancing the action sequences with borderline humorous character moments.

The story begins on an eerie foot with who appears to be the primary villain introducing himself as he makes his murderous mark in a scene almost completely devoid of dialog. From there we transition to a military base where Colonel Steve Austin is scheduled to test pilot the latest technological wonder in the military’s aviation field, only he is late. There is much banter going back and forth between the brass giving us a sense of just who this Steve Austin character is and a little bit of his character is in a realistically pieced together conversation. I will not go any farther into the story but lets just say that things don’t go as smoothly as Austin would hope with BOTH the ladies and the machines.

The art in this issue is top notch. I was previously unaware of Jonathan Lau but from what I have seen in this issue I would not be surprised if he was poached by “The Big Two” in the near future. His characterizations are clear, his facial expressions are easy to understand and while there are a number of panels lacking backgrounds his attention to detail and structures in the panels that DO have them are top class. Ivan Nunes’ colors are bright and easily catch your attention, very much enhancing the experience of Lau’s art as we flow from page to page. Over all the art as a whole reminded me of John Cassaday’s colored pages on Astonishing X-Men.

The Bottom Line – This is one hell of a first issue. It is funny and dramatic and suspenseful all at the right times. Based on the first issue, this series looks to have all of the makings of a classic story. The narrative is clear and to the point, you automatically know who the characters to cheer for are, and the cliffhanger ending is something I feel was tastefully done as we build to the inevitable pivot into Colonel Austin’s new life.

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Green Lantern – Emerald Warriors #13 (DC Comics)

Written by PETER TOMASI
Art by RON FRENZ

Murder in Spaaaaaaacccceeee!!!!! What happens when an astronaut is murdered in the international space station? You call a Green Lantern and a Batman to investigate, duh! This issue is another one-and-done story killing a bit of time between major story arcs, or in this case before next month’s DC relaunch. Since both the Batman and Green Lantern properties will remain relatively untouched the creators are just having a bit of fun it seems instead of trying to put a nice ribbon on their runs before they close it out. Focusing on Guy Gardner, the series’ star, rather than Hal Jordan is a nice change up. Plus throw in the Dark Knight and we almost have a good old fashioned JLI party which is probably not incidental considering #1 hits in about three weeks. The story has its typical beats found in most mystery tales. The investigation -> the sleight of hand -> the bad guy is caught, but this is a man dressed as a bat and a man with an alien ring! Oh, AND IN SPACE!

Peter Tomasi is continuing to chug along as a good character writer but I would like to see more of him as a leading man rather that living in the shadow of whatever Johns and Morrison have up their sleeves with Green Lantern and Batman respectively. The plot unfolds nicely in the 20 page story leading up to a tongue in cheek ending. The blend of Gardner’s approach meeting Batman’s determination is flawless yet leaves you wanting to see more. The only way I would recreate their interaction with each other is to send Anderson Cooper to cover the next tragic event and his co-anchor is Daniel Tosh. Okay, maybe not that bad but it is close.

Also, this issue’s pencils were done by Ron Frenz who brings a great comedic slant to the panels without sacrificing the action. The angles he uses are well crafted and even limited panel scenes such as the interrogation of the space crew read well with no confusion as to who is who. Gave Eltabe’s colors are standard for DC, meaning the Lantern’s hue is spot on and the blends are standard.

The Bottom Line – As much as I love my Green Lantern lore, this issue is good but not necessarily single issue good for many people who recently came into GL and are looking for the stories that seem tailored for collected editions. Maybe it is because they are between events and are slumming it a bit with more one-shot styled fun stories? Either way, it is a decent read for a casual reader in that it is an all encompassed issue and I hate to say this but if you are looking for Sinestro Corp style epic events then don’t feel bad on passing this.

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FF #8 (Marvel Comics)

Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Art by STEVE EPTING

When the good guys dressed in mainly white include in their ranks individuals like Doctor Doom and a few other people who have spent years trying to kill you then I think you need to reevaluate your current position, Doctor Richards. Johathan Hickman is continuing to unleash the best saga featuring Marvel’s First Family in over a decade. This issue the group finally brings the fight to the extradimensonal group of parallel Reed Richards at the same convenient time that the Inhumans decide to return home from their trip to Kree space. Trust me, this is layers upon layers of story elements coming together in a perfect payoff to those of us who have been reading for the last few years.

Hickman remains to be my favorite new writer despite the fact that he has been doing this for years now. This man needs to get his own mega event and I really hope that his run on the Fantastic Four and Future Foundation all leads up to this. Like I said before, all of the layers that he has been placing are now coming to a head in this issue. If you were to pick this up blind you might be overwhelmed by what was going on and who was who but the issue does do a somewhat decent job in the beginning of filling us in on recent events via character conversations. The action is exciting as heroes and villains come together to bring down a seemingly deeper threat, but all is not what it seems as we end on a sudden twist splash page.

After being artist in the recent high profile deaths of two Marvel Universe mainstays, some regard Steve Epting as the Grim Reaper of comics but I feel this man is a damn good example of what an action comic should look like. His realistic style and solid lines are at the top of its game and even when there are multiple characters in a huge double page splash he does justice to make each and every single one of those faces as distinct as possible.

The Bottom Line – BUY! BUY! BUY! Go back and get the beginning of his run, including the Dark Reign mini series. This is a story that might benefit from being read as a collection but the sheer awesomeness of the single issues will make you impatient enough to not bother waiting.

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Flashpoint – Hal Jordan #3 (DC Comics)

Written by ADAM SCHLAGMAN
Art by CLIFF RICHARDS

In the imaginary world of Flashpoint, ace pilot Hal Jordan remained just that; a pilot. No Green Lantern ring chose him as being worthy, no flying off and saving the day, no bringing death and destruction to the GL Corp as Parallax, just the life of an ordinary military test pilot. Sounds boring right? Yeah, it kind of is. The third and final issue of the series, Hal is tasked with delivering the “Green Arrow” super bomb to its target of New Themescria (a.k.a. some seriously f-ed up version of London) to stop the Atlantieans and Amazonians from destroying the world during their tiresome war against each other. On paper it sounds right and while there were moments that worked for me, especially the end, I just wasn’t feeling it over all.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no hate for editor-turned-writer Adam Schlagman. We have met a number of times so this is nothing personal against the man and while this series might work for others I felt a bit bored, especially during a week where several other books caught my eye. That said, his style is pretty solid. He seemed to be pretty on top of his beats and the characterization of Jordan and his supporting cast was decent though, so I am glad Flashpoint didn’t change that. Carol Danvers was as headstrong and defiant as always, Hector Hammond was a condescending prick, and Tom looked like he still made a pretty good number two as Hal’s BFF. Even the main character himself was almost an exact copy of Johns’ take but that doesn’t surprise me considering how long Adam has been editing on Geoff’s books. Like I said, on paper this looks good and maybe if I reread all three issues as an entire body of work rather than individual monthly issues I’ll have a different take on the matter.

The art was decent enough though. Cliff Richards did a fine job in capturing the action despite how brief it was. I especially love the attention to detail in the scenery and his splash pages are very powerful. The colors seemed a bit off though, kind of scratchy, but I think that was the style the book was going for to show the more human side of this world in a different light than the dynamic spandex side. If the tones were a little bolder and more pronounced it could have helped but it also could have just as easily hurt the book should it clash with Richards’ pencil work too much.

The Bottom Line – This is a hard one for me. I love the characters and the individual ingredients that make this book but I am going to have to give it a pass. If you are a completionist I say go for it, or if you are a diehard Green Lantern fan it is worth a read, but for the average Joe I would say leave it.

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Wolverine #14 (Marvel Comics)

Written by JASON AARON
Art by RENATO GUEDES

Wolverine is one ruthless mother f*cker, everyone knows this. This issue is the finale of a story that shows just what happens when karma comes by to show off her pimp hand. The group of once normal everyday individuals seeking revenge on Logan for the death of their loved ones finally get what they desire and when I say this hits Wolverine right in the heart I am vastly understating just how deep this effects the man. Powerful stuff in this issue as we see just what grief and a denial of justice can lead men, women, and even children to do all in the name of vengeance.

Marvel Architect Jason Aaron is taking us for a ride with his run on Wolverine. I was a bit skeptical at first when Marvel once again renumbered the series with a brand new number one just for him to begin but it’s been a surprisingly fun ride. Arc after arc, Aaron has been subtly crafting something similar to what he did during his Ghost Rider run where once it is all over we can look back at past issues and say “Oh, I see what he did there”. The scariest part about the villain of the story is that it can just as easily be us or one of our loved ones should we ever find ourselves in the unfortunate position of permanent mourning.

I was so sucked into the close of this issue that I actually really do not recall much of the art. That is actually a good thing if you think about it. Guedes has been a favorite of mine since I discovered him on Superman many years ago, so I trust that he did well. All of the action really took place in the last few issues but he made a simple video conversation as entertaining as he could with various angles without taking away from the story. The issue was primarily dark to fit the mood and the underground basement setting but it worked for me since the words were more important than for actual images.

The Bottom Line –This is the close of a story and it is a doozy, especially with the tease of what is in store. Again, Aaron is taking Wolverine on a head-on collision with an adversary he has seldom seen before: his conscious. Solid story telling and an unfolded plot that makes you feel for the “villain” with an ending that takes your pity for them to an even higher level, this is not an issue to miss.

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The Lightning Round!

Here is a small number of the other books that were released this week and how I quickly rate them. The rating system I will be using will be ranked as:

New Release – This book is the bee’s knees. Buy this comic as soon as the issues arrive in the store!
TPB – It is okay. If you are vaguely interested then wait for the trade paperback or hardcover.
Bargain Bin – Almost a total pass that I would only touch just so i could move it out of the way in the cheap bins.

Hack/Slash & Eva – Monster’s Ball #3 (Image Comics/Dynamite Entertainment)
Two hot girls killing monsters? Sounds right but not for me right now. As a trade it could work though. TPB

X-Men #16 (Marvel Comics)
As much as I love Spider-Man, X-Men, and the FF this issue felt like a major filler to me. Bargain Bin.

Ultimate Comics – The Ultimates #1 (Marvel Comics)
Big action from Hickman who had big shoes to fill in the first of the current Ultimate Comics line relaunched books. I am sure glad that I read Ultimate Fallout because if the bad guy is who I think he is then the heroes are in for quite a fight. New Release

Green Arrow #15 (DC Comics)
Ollie sure has had his share of endings and beginnings and this issue is a well done but not earth shattering send off to the emerald archer before the big relaunch next month when the book gets a new number 1 as well as a new creative team. TPB

Kick-Ass 2 #3 (Icon/Marvel Comics)
Potty humor and morbid violence galore, Millar is trying his damn hardest to be the Michael Bay of comics. This is a fun ride though as we build up to the collosal costumed street fight teased at the start of issue one. New Release

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW Publishing)
The turtles from my childhood are back! While it is a bit hard to tell if this new series is a total reboot or if it takes place in a continuity previously established, it is fun to see the flashback sequences of Splinter in the TGIR labs. I would wait a little bit before jumping into this title but it seems like it is headed somewhere fun. TPB

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Collected Edition Of The Week
Carnage: Family Feud (Marvel Comics)
I was very happy to see this book when it first was release. This is Carnage being set back up as the threat he was in the 90’s before he became an overused joke character in failed attempts to boost sales.

This book takes many beats and characters from Maximum Carnage as well as filling in what the character has been up to since he was last seen in New Avengers #2 being ripped in half and left in orbit. The interactions between Spider-Man and Iron Man are right on the ball as they work together to fight a combination of symbiot and armored thugs before the true villain, Carnage, rears his ugly mug.

Ending on a fresh note with a promising story in the works this is my selection for the week!

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