Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Reviews for 1-19-05

Teen Titans 20- “Hiding”
By Geoff Johns and Tom Grummett
Cover by Duncan Rouleau
The Story: As the Titans track down a loose end from the Sue Dibny case, Robin deals with his tragic loss.
The Good: Well, that turned into something quite unlike what I was expecting. DC billed this as “The Titans hunt for Luthor’s Power Armor,” but the real story is with Robin and his recent trauma. I can’t properly review this book without SPOILERS, so here they come.
Tim starts the book by repressing his feelings, pulling a Batman on the Titans. Johns uses the unreliable narrator technique to get us inside Tim’s head and show us it’s not a fun place to be. Johns has gotten a lot of mileage playing up the differences between Robin and Batman, which makes Tim’s efforts to handle his pain the way Batman would all the more chilling and, well, wrong. He’s not Batman, and he shouldn’t act like Batman, especially with the Titans, so seeing him do just that hits a deep nerve.
All the better when the time comes for the big reveal. The script is almost archetypal, steadily building the tension until the reader knows everything’s about to snap. The device used (villain unwittingly pushes hero’s buttons) is old, but used to great effect here. The brutality of Tim’s response, followed by the emotional release as Tim shares his loss with the team, is a perfect climax.
Good as the script is (and it’s one of Johns’ best), it couldn’t have been pulled off nearly as well without Grummett’s pencils. Tim’s emotions leap off the page in the final sequence, and they run quite a gamut. Still, for all that, the key moment is perfectly simple and understated. It hits just the right note.
Identity Crisis itself was lambasted for being dark and depressing. I can’t fault those criticisms, but I’m glad to see that the fallout, in this case at least, doesn’t have that problem.
The Bad: It’s downright criminal that so important an issue in Robin’s life should be so well-handled here, yet be either fumbled or flat-out ignored by the Bat-books, including his own title. For shame, Bat-editors and writers; for shame.
God damn, is that one fugly cover.
The Quote: “Robin? I know you’re trying to push it away, but… You don’t have to hide it. Not here.”
The Final Word: Dare I say it, the best this book’s been yet.
The Grade: A

MadroX 5 – “Once Burned, Twice Shy”
By Peter David and Pablo Raimondi
Cover by David Lloyd and Brian Reber
The Story: Jamie faces down the mastermind behind his dupe’s murder.
The Good: The big sell of this book has been the noir feel, and how much Peter David has gotten out of playing around with the genre. This issue is the best example of that, in terms of writing style (“The gaping holes blossom over her like red flowers as he empties the entire clip into her”), playing with the conventions, and the overall disconnect from the events Jamie’s left with. There’s resolution, but no easy answers, which is just as it should be. I mean, no one here expected a happy ending, did they? And it’s a good ending, with plenty of suspense and a killer twist I didn’t see coming.
The other big theme of the series, Jamie’s growing problems with his dupes, gets the short shrift here. I can see why it had to, with the plot needing so much space, and the little teasers we are given are obviously setup for something down the road. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, I have to give some hardcore props to Pablo Raimondi for his artwork, both here and on the rest of the series. His style is nicely cinematic and edgy, and I mean that in a good way, not the MTV-style false badassness the mass media have shackled to the term. My favorite part is the… well, I’m still not sure what the hell that thing Sheila turns into was, but boy, does it look cool.
So, this is issue five of five. I’d hoped the series would continue from here, but the editor’s letter at the end of the comic tells me differently. However… ah, hell, screw it. X-Factor. Peter David. This fall. Squee.
The Bad: The Rahne subplot peters out this issue. It had an interesting setup, but didn’t end up going anywhere, except possibly down a path that I think is too morbid, even for this book. Yeesh.
The Quote: “It’s bad business to let the killer get away with it.”
The Final Word: Killer wrap-up to one of the best mini-series Marvel’s done in a while.
The Grade: B+

Exiles 58 – “Taking On Tanaraq”
By Tony Bedard and Mizuki Sakakibara
The Story: The team’s newest member has his own agenda, and it ain’t pretty.
The Good: The setup isn’t much; we’ve seen this bit in this book before, as the characters remind us, so it falls to the execution to make it worthwhile. I’m happy to report that that is indeed the case. Bedard tosses some unexpected guest stars, a few surprises, and a final resolution I honestly didn’t think he was going to go for. I’m pleased he did, and even more pleased that I didn’t see it coming.
It’s the little things that make up this issue; the interplay between the villains (including the really funny exchanges between Dr. Octopus and the Master of the World), Beak’s actually doing something, and some nice rewards for paying attention that make the second reading as fun as the first.
Sakakibara’s art gets the job done.
The Bad: While the plot’s enjoyable enough, the issue still feels too much like filler, a stepping stone to a bigger story. The advance solicits probably play a part in that, as I know some of what’s in store already, but still, the story lacks bite. Ironic, considering Tanaraq’s impressive jawline.
I can accept this reality’s version of Doc Ock apparently hailing from Sunnydale, CA, but Doom’s brief lapse into Whedonite speech patterns just ain’t right. Thankfully, it’s only one balloon, and the rest of the time, he’s his usual snotty self. Still, WTF, mates?
The Quote: “I call myself… The Master!” “O-kayyy…”
The Final Word: An acceptable issue, but I want more, and I usually get it from this title.
The Grade: B

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