January 24, 2013

The Pull List: 23 January 2013

Sometimes I wonder if Kieron Gillen is the most underrated writer in superhero comics today. I've been criminally negligent in recommending his stuff in this column, mainly because I've been buying his stuff late every month - or simply skipping the monthly issues and going for the trade paperbacks.

With Generation Hope he crafted a story about young mutants travelling the world trying to locate and assist teenagers whose own mutant powers were just manifesting. It was a sharp break from the rest of the X-Me titles, focusing on a team flying around helping and rescuing people rather than fighting megalomaniacs and super-villains. Much of its legacy now lies in Wolverine and the X-Men, another excellent book (albeit not by Gillen) that I've been primarily reading in collected editions.

In Journey to Mystery Gillen tracked a complex, multi-layered adventure for the reincarnated child version of Loki, and manage to create the closest thing to Neil Gaiman's Sandman I've seen outside of Vertigo. It was that ultra-rare superhero comic - one that was too good for the context it was written in. The whole run has recently been completed in collected editions with the Mighty Thor/Journey into Mystery crossover "Everything Burns". It ends perfectly. I got a bit weepy. Many of the readers got a bit weepy.

Now Gillen is continuing the adventures of Kid Loki in Young Avengers, which launches this week. It reunites him with regular collaborator Jamie McKelvie. My review is below. Spoiler: it's rather good.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Bedlam, Green Lantern, It Girl and the Atomics, Justice League, Legion of Super-Heroes, The Massive, Prophet, Revival, Sword of Sorcery, Uncanny X-Force, Wonder Woman and Young Avengers.

Batwoman #16
DC Comics. Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. Art by J.H. Williams III.
This is an epic issue, packed with so many two-page spreads that DC have been forced to pack all the advertisements into the second half of the book. It is so stunningly laid out and painted that I can see why Williams didn't provide art for the last issue - this must have taken him a very long time to complete. It feels churlish to criticise the book, but I have to be honest: this storyline is taking an interminable time to end. I figured the climax would come last month, and it didn't, and I figured the climax would come this month, and it hasn't. I suppose you can't have it all: while the plot is beginning to drag, this issue is rich in art, detail and characterisation and remains exceptionally good. (4/5)

Bedlam #3
Image Comics. Written by Nick Spencer. Art by Riley Rossmo.
I was blown away by the first issue of Bedlam, and slightly underwhelmed by the second. The third is somewhere in between: not quite matching the heights of issue #1 but picking up the plot and pushing it in a gripping direction.In this issue Filmore Press attempts to ingratiate his way into a police serial killer investigation. One of the most appealing aspects of this book is how it's taking such a fresh direction from such old elements. While this book is essentially 'what if the Joker tried to become a hero?', it is executed in a clever and unexpected fashion. Riley Rossmo's art continues to excel: he uses a limited palette of predominantly shades of grey and red, but it absolutely works for the material. (4/5)

Green Lantern #16
DC Comics. Written by Geoff Johns. Art by Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin and Tom Nguyen.
This issue is the sort of comic that drives me crazy: 'to find out what happens next, read that different comic over there!'  For the most part I've been successfully avoiding the "Rise of the Third Army" crossover and only reading Green Lantern, and for the most part it's worked. Now if I want to learn the conclusion of the story I've been reading for the past few months I have to buy Green Lantern Corps #16 and Green Lantern Corps Annual #1. Sorry DC, but I'm afraid I'm not going to do that.

Simon Baz still makes for an interesting lead and his transformation into a proper Green Lantern appearsto be complete, although having a Lantern with a semi-automatic handgun seems a bit provocative in America's current sociopolitical climate. Great art, as always (pencil by Mahnke, inks by five artists). It's just a shame that the story I've been giving DC decent money for isn't apparently good enough to end inside its own comic book. (2/5)

It Girl and the Atomics #6
Image Comics. Written by Jamie S. Rich. Art by Chynna Clugston-Flores.
Mike Norton takes a month off this issue, and so does protagonist It Girl. Instead we get a one-shot adventure of Mr Gum as he tours the galaxy with his band. This issue tries desperately hard to be retro and hip, but only seems to succeed in being not so much hip as 'tedious hipster'. Guest artist Chynna Clugston-Flores is someone I have always been a fan of, but for some reason her art feels a lot rougher and less stylish than it normally does. This is the first real disappointment from this book, and as a self-contained segue it's entirely skippable. I love the idea of this issue in concept, mind you, it's just the execution that seems lacking. (2/5)

Justice League #16
DC Comics. Written by Geoff Johns. Art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.
"Throne of Atlantis" continues to be a very cool, JLA throwback with big ideas, large-scale battles and a high concept. This is the kind of big crossover Johns used to write, back when things like "The Sinestro Corps War" was making Green Lantern a must-read. Here we get everybody's favourite - superhero vs. superhero combat. I've got to be honest, though: this is the first time I've been reading Justice League since its tedious first issue, and from what I'm reading here Cyborg is a completely dull and redundant character. There's almost always one in the League, that second-string bore that the writer is inexplicably in love with so we all have to just cope with them. Bring back the Martian Manhunter, I say. The Shazam back-up continues, and continues to be both dull and ridiculous. How is that even possible? (3/5)

Legion of Super-Heroes #16
DC Comics. Written by Paul Levitz. Art by Scott Kolins.
This is one of those 'calm before the storm' issues, with the Legion having one of their bizarrely frequent elections and Chameleon Boy going to check that one of their captive villains is indeed still captive. Kolins is back as artist, and his art still annoys me. I feel bad about that. I feel like I constantly bring it up each issue, and one day he's going to stumble upon this review and feel sad. I just don't think his style suits superheroic action. There's a looseness to the technique that would suit a more esoteric title. I do quite like the sense of pause with this issue - so long as we go headlong into the next arc in four weeks of course. (3/5)

The Massive #8
Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Garry Brown.
This, the second part of "Subcontinental", is the best issue of The Massive so far, and the first issue to really fulfill the potential in the comic's premise. The Kapital is docked at a floating nation made up of lots of bound-together oil rigs, and it looks like they're not going to be able to leave. There's a nice sense of tension and menace to this storyline that's been missing from the previous seven issues - for the first time I'm really feeling like there's something at stake. Garry Brown's art continues to do wonders, giving the book a very realistic and gritty edge. (5/5)

Prophet #33
Image Comics. Written by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy. Art by Simon Roy.
Okay, so the Supreme cameo I was not expecting. Prophet is a very clever book, because each issue seems to be a random collection of surreal science fiction and fantasy moments, but the more you read the more it begins to make some sort of sense. I'm not going to claim I fully understand what's going on - that would probably take going back and re-reading the old issues - but it continues to enchant and surprise. Simon Roy really has the Metal Hurlant style down as well. (4/5)

Revival #6
Image Comics. Written by Tim Seeley. Art by Mike Norton.
 Revival returns, just in time for us to learn the America's ABC network passed on a TV adaptation shortly before 'creating' their own near-identical series Returned. Maybe it's a coincidence, but given the same network previously rejected Fables before making Once Upon a Time, I have my doubts. You should compensate Seeley and Norton by buying this comic. It continues to be clever, dark, rural noir horror, with a story that continues to build and get more complex. (5/5)

Sword of Sorcery #4
DC Comics. Written by Christy Marx. Art by Travis Moore.
This one's about as bad as Green Lantern, maybe worse. Rather than follow-up from the end of issue #3, we instead follow up from an issue of Justice League Dark with Amethyst thanking John Constantine for letting her join their team-up. If there's anything that perfectly demonstrates why shifting Constantine into the DC Universe it's this: the cigarette-smoking, untrustworthy demonologist hanging out with a magical princess. This is an odd little one-shot: it's not awful, but neither is it really worth reading. I doubt it's likely to help lift this book's flagging sales, either. I think Sword of Sorcery has likely got three or four issues left in it: DC have already signed Christy Marx up for Birds of Prey. (2/5)

Uncanny X-Force #1
Marvel Comics. Written by Sam Humphries. Art by Ron Garney and Danny Miki.
Storm leads a mutant super-team along with Psylocke, Phantomex, Puck and Bishop - or, at least, it looks like she will be, as this is yet another first issue from Marvel that takes its sweet time setting things up. There really are too many damn X-Men titles at the moment, and I honestly couldn't tell you where this book differs from X-Treme X-Men, Cable and the X-Force or Uncanny X-Men. It has mutants, a few fights, lots of set-up for future storylines, but it really feels like a soap opera-style circular story. There's nothing here I haven't seen before, and there's nothing I'm not going to see many times again. X-Men Legacy grabbed my attention with its fresh take on the X-Men. This is just more of the same, with an admittedly nice cover. (2/5)

Wonder Woman #16
DC Comics. Written by Brian Azzarello. Art by Cliff Chiang.
I'm really liking how, after seeding Wonder Woman so heavily in Greek mythology, Brian Azzarello is now grafting in Kirby mythology as well with the presence of Orion of the New Gods. There are a lot of balls in the air at the moment: Diana and Orion, Hera and Zola, Cassandra and the giant. A real test is coming in the next few months as to whether Azzarello can keep juggling these simultaneous plots without dropping anything. Based on previous issues, I'm confident. Cliff Chiang's art continues to impress, and the issue ends on a knockout cliffhanger. (4/5)

Young Avengers #1
Marvel Comics. Written by Kieron Gillen. Art by Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton.
Wow. This is an exceptional first issue of what I hope is an extraordinarily long-running comic. It teams up a bunch of young superheroes that I really like, including Loki, Kate "Hawkeye" Bishop, Hulkling, Wiccan and Marvel Boy, and it teams them up with depth, sensitivity and warmth. It also reunites Gillen and McKelvie, whose wonderful independent comic Phonogram is one of the best comics of the past decade. (Mike Norton is assisting with art as well, credit where it's due.) McKelvie is the best artist in comics today for expressing the emotion of characters in conversation. His art style is so ridiculously clean and expressive, like a perfectly formed object on every panel. And the writing? Gillen's Generation Hope was a must-read. Gillen's Journey Into Mystery was a must-read. This is a must-read. It's the best first issue of Marvel Now to date. (5/5)

Winner of the Week: Young Avengers #1. Run, don't walk.
Loser of the Week: Sword of Sorcery was pretty boring this month. I think it loses.


  1. I'm a fan of Gillen too from what I've read, although I found his Iron Man a little disappointing. Still, I'm keen to read this one.

  2. I love Kieron Gillen's work as well, especially his SWORD mini series. Do you listen to his podcast Decompressed at all? It's a great one for an inside look at the industry.


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