July 4, 2014

The Pull List: 2 July 2014

The looming juggernaut that is the Guardians of the Galaxy movie finally hits comic book shelves in a big way: Marvel have been publishing a relaunched Guardians comic for more than a year now, but this week's they've added new ongoing monthlies based around Peter Quill, aka Starlord, and Rocket Raccoon. I haven't sampled Legendary Starlord - I can't buy everything - but I did pick up a copy of Skottie Young's Rocket Raccoon to give it a look. After all, he's an intergalactic raccoon who shoots people with laser guns: what's not to love?

Skottie Young has established a very successful career doing immensely cute alternative covers for Marvel's books, and prior to that he was illustrating a long run of L. Frank Baum Oz adaptations. It's nice to see him tackle something within the Marvel Universe proper, and Rocket Raccoon is a pretty perfect fit for his style. This is a straight-up comedy comic book, with alien wrestling matches, chase scenes, shoot-outs and zippy one-liners.

Now I've personally come away from the book slightly underwhelmed. It feels a little too self-aware and a little too scrappy and loose, when this sort of thing needs to be tight as can be in order to properly work. I suspect a lot of people will absolutely love it though, and if it looks like your kind of thing there's a good chance that it probably will be. (3/5)

Marvel. Story and art by Skottie Young.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Aquaman and the Others, Batman Eternal, Black Widow, Enormous, Justice League 3000, Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures and The Woods.

Action Comics #33
DC Comics. Written by Greg Pak. Art by Aaron Kuder.
All due credit to Greg Pak: I haven't been reading the big "Doomed" crossover, so each month I come to Action Comics without a clue what's happened in the intervening three instalments and each month Pak has written his book in such a fashion that I very rapidly catch up. Superman is rapidly transforming into Doomsday, and the rage is becoming too much for him to control. Cue an intervention by Supergirl, now a rage-filled Red Lantern herself, to try and help him manage his new identity. Meanwhile things go to hell in Metropolis. It's well written, and I like Kuder's artwork a hell of a lot, but I am pretty much drumming my fingers waiting for this crossover to end. Pak and Kuder's first arc on Action was really promising and I want them back doing their own thing ASAP. (3/5)

Aquaman and the Others #4
DC Comics. Written by Dan Jurgens. Art by Lan Medina and Allen Martinez.
Aquaman has been mortally wounded while fighting against the mysterious family who want their Atlantean artefacts back - the same artefacts that give the Others their various powers. This book continues doing what it's been doing for the last three issues: neatly written, competently illustrated superhero adventure. It's neither great nor awful, and just amiably sits there. It's readable and it's enjoyable, it just also feels entirely unnecessary. Even the name sounds like an afterthought: DC have the Justice League, the Teen Titans, the Suicide Squad, the Doom Patrol, oh - and "the Others". I still don't rate the comic's long-term future, but I'm enjoying it enough while it lasts. (3/5)

Batman Eternal #13
DC Comics. Written by Snyder, Seeley, Fawkes, Tynion and Layman. Art by Mikel Janin.
Jim Gordon has a sit-down conversation with his sociopathic son, Lt Bard makes a strike against the city's corrupt new police commissioner, Stephanie Brown's friends come under attack from her father, and Harper Row continues investigating Red Robin. This is another strong issue that pushes the plot forward on multiple fronts, and juggles its storylines with remarkable skill. Basically if you're going to publish a weekly comic, you need to throw a lot of balls in the air and start juggling. The form is less about the strength of individual issues and more about the narrative drive that pushes the reader from one week to the next. 52 famously nailed this. I don't think Batman Eternal is as inventive or clever as 52, but it's still bloody good. (4/5)

Black Widow #8
Marvel. Written by Nathan Edmondson. Art by Phil Noto.
Black Widow teams up with the Winter Soldier on a train in the Czech Republic: this is a neat, largely self-contained action sequence that's tightly plotted and beautifully illustrated. Elsewhere in the issue, Natasha's mysterious and slightly creepy handler seems to get into more trouble than he expects. I like that there is clearly a bigger story moving around in the background here, and can't wait for it to hit the foreground. There have been quite a few attempts at a Black Widow comic over the years - I honestly think that this iteration is the most creatively successful. (4/5)

Enormous #1
215 Ink. Written by Tim Daniel. Art by Mehdi Cheggour.
This might take a moment: so Enormous was original a 64-page graphic novel published by Shadowline via Image Comics. It was popular enough that Machinima turned into its a short film, that worked as a pilot for a web-based live-action series, and now to accompany that series the original graphic novel has been turned into an ongoing comic book by its original creators. It's a post-apocalyptic sci-fi comic in which horrifying monsters are turning up everywhere and eating people. It's not going to win any awards for startling originality, but Tim Daniel writes a serviceable script and Mehdi Cheggour provides some very attractive painterly and near-photorealistic artwork. I have some quibbles with it: like I said, it's not very original, and Cheggour's artwork seems to consist of a lot of interchangeable Greg Horn-style attractive young women, but it's slickly produced and presented and at 48 pages of story for US$3.99 it's pretty decent value. It may be tricky to find at a local comic shop, however, since it's from a pretty obscure indie publisher and it's unlikely too many stores are going to buy in enough copies to stock on their shelves. (2/5)

Justice League 3000 #8
DC Comics. Written by J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen. Art by Howard Porter.
Here's a valuable hint to all major comic book publishers: having a final page twist is a great idea. It excites the reader, and gets her or him keen to read your next issue in the following month. These cliffhangers are a great part of the comic book serialised tradition, and I love them very much. They only work, however, if you don't put the same last-page reveal on the cover of your comic. This continues to be a smart comic: great art by Porter, funny dialogue by DeMatteis and Giffen, and some quite serious stuff tucked in where you might not expect it. It's unexpectedly good stuff. (3/5)

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #3
Marvel. Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by David Marquez.
I'm having a small problem with this relaunched Ultimate Spider-Man, and that's the way in which it's following up on events that pre-date Miles Morales. I was always aware of this book, but wasn't inspired to start reading until they killed off Peter Parker and introduced Miles. As a result a lot of the impact of this arc - the Green Goblin is back (I've never seen the Ultimate Green Goblin before), and a clone of Peter Parker is running around. I suspect long-term readers must be loving this, but despite the great artwork and the typically strong dialogue and character work, it's unfortunately feeling a bit like I'm missing the party. (4/5)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures #12
IDW. Written by Landry Q. Walker. Art by Dario Brizuela and Chad Thomas.
Reading this latest issue of IDW's cartoon spin-off, I was suddenly struck by how enormously successful this new animated Ninja Turtles has been (another season was just commissioned) and how weird it is that Nickelodeon and Paramount would complicate things by simultaneously producing a Michael Bay-backed live-action movie that appears to bear little or no resemblance to the Ninja Turtles with which kids today will be most familiar. It's particularly odd because the current cartoon is pretty much the most entertaining iteration of the property that there's ever been. This comic emulates it beautifully with a fast-paced, knowingly silly story of the Turtles rushing to intercept a packaged videotape before it can be mailed to a TV network - and thus reveal the Turtles' existence to the masses. Two short back-ups, one a Lego tie-in, and less successful, but not unwelcome. This is solid, fun stuff. (3/5)

The Woods #3
Boom Studios. Written by James Tynion IV. Art by Michael Dialynas.
We're three issues in, and I'm a little disappointed that The Woods is sliding into a lot of stereotypes. It's also moving remarkably fast: the school's only been trapped in the woods for a few days and already the school coach is establishing martial law and enlisting violent gangs of bullies to beat and torture uncooperative students. I was hoping for something a little less obvious. There's still hope for improvement down the line, but at the moment The Woods isn't giving me anything I haven't seen done before - and often done a bit better. (3/5)

Winner of the Week: It's been a bit of a "meh" week, to be honest, with nothing particularly awful and nothing particularly outstanding. This week I'm awarding the prize to Black Widow.
Loser of the Week: Again, nothing outrageously bad - just a few disappointments. No loser this week.

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