March 29, 2017

The Pull List: 22 March 2017, Part 1

I had honestly assumed that Rebels, a historical comic book by Brian Wood and Andrew Mutti, was done and dusted. It told a story of Seth Abbott, a soldier in the American War of Independence, as well as a few side narratives here and there. It was exceptional stuff: well researched in both writing and art, and intelligently and thoughtfully presented. Then the issues stopped coming out, and I simply assumed low sales or creative disinterest had killed the book off.

Suddenly Dark Horse are back publishing Rebels: These Free and Independent States, a new follow-up storyline that jumps forward a generation to tell the story of Seth Abbott's son John. He is a quiet, intelligent boy clearly living somewhere along the autism spectrum, but he knows ships intimately: their names and routes, their designs, and their construction. As a young man he's encouraged into shipbuilding by his father, just in time for the United States of America to enter its first major naval conflict.

It's engaging history, smartly written and nicely illustrated. I adore historical drama in comic book form, and Brian Wood - through this and Northlanders - is one of the best writers of the genre. I hope Rebels sticks around for at least another few issues in this form: it's great stuff. (4/5)

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #1. Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Andrea Mutti. Colours by Lauren Affe.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Hulk and Spider-Gwen, as well as bonus late reviews of Justice League of America and Super Sons.

Detective Comics #953
DC Comics. Written by James Tynion IV. Art by Christian Duce and Fernando Blanco. Colours by Alex Sinclair with Allen Passalaqua.
Gotham City is in chaos, with Batman accused of murder, the public convinced there has been a major attack by the Joker, Lady Shiva running rampant across the city, and Cassandra Cain - desperate and confused - trying to come to terms with a mother who abandoned here. The beautiful thing about this "League of Shadows" arc is that writer James Tynion IV has managed to make a story that's not only entertaining but difficult to predict. The situation is dire, and at present there seems no easy solution to the crisis. Then there's that last page reveal. This continues to be a great book, and the extended cast really helps it to stand out from other Batman comics. (4/5)

Hulk #4
Marvel. Written by Mariko Tamaki. Art by Nico Leon. Colours by Matt Milla.
Generally speaking, Hulk has been great. It can boast a smart and emotionally powerful new take on protagonist Jen Walters. Mariko Tamaki's character work is excellent. Nico Leon is providing what feels like career-best artwork, and Matt Milla's colours complement that work very nicely. Sadly, however, this specific issue is that filler in the middle of a story arc when not enough plot occurs, and not enough new information is provided to the reader. It feels like its treading water to ensure the plot runs for enough issues to fill a trade paperback. Individual parts are nice, but the whole is slightly unsatisfying. (3/5)

Spider-Gwen #18
Marvel. Written by Jason Latour. Art by Robbi Rodriguez. Colours by Rico Renzi.
The dimension-hopping crossover between Spider-Gwen and Spider-Man concludes with a often gut-bustingly funny chase through a range of parallel universes. The better-read Marvel fans in the readership will find it a delight; others will still find it funny, although will miss the amusement of seeing familiar alternate takes on famous characters. Overall this six-part storyline has been a little hit and miss. The humour of the piece has been great, particularly the interactions between Miles and Gwen, but in the end it felt a little too inconsequential: a fun read, but not a necessary one. (3/5)

Finally, two comics from previous weeks that have been sitting on the shelf waiting to be read.

Justice League of America #2
DC Comics. Written by Steve Orlando. Art by Felipe Watanabe and Scott Hanna. Colours by Hi-Fi.
Defeating Lord Havok and the Extremists is hard enough, but what if Havok becomes the legitimate ruler of a sovereign nation? It's a nice twist by writer Steve Orlando, but it does not feel like quite enough to push this book out of 'good' and into 'great'. There is already a Justice League book on the market with a much more famous set of characters, so there is a bit more work required to justify this parallel team's existence. Solid writing, solid art, but not a must-read. (3/5)

Super Sons #2
DC Comics. Written by Peter J. Tomasi. Art by Jorge Jimenez. Colours by Alejandro Sanchez.
Robin and Superboy are on the trail of Kid Amazo, even though their first mission has already put them into direct confrontation with Lex Luthor. This is a smart, funny, well-paced series. Peter Tomasi has a well established handle on both Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne, and their interactions are the absolute highlight of the book. One surprise is just how dark it gets: we have a child murdering people here, and while it works on a dramatic level it does sadly push this title out of the 'all-ages' bracket where it arguably could have been more valuable. (4/5)

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