This week, we have Great Lakes Avengers, Astonishing X-Men, Exiles, Incredible Hulk, Teen Titans, and Wildguard: Fool's Gold.
Great Lakes Avengers 4 – “Countdown to a Miscount”
By Dan Slott and Paul Pelletier
As Squirrel Girl blubbers in this issue’s opening page, comic books are supposed to be fun. Some of them, though, aren’t. Happily, GLA is not one of those comics.
We come to the conclusion of our odd little epic here, and it’s a satisfying one. Slott brings closure to the plotline that’s been running since issue one, both thematically and structurally. I don’t quite agree with parts of the philosophy he expounds through Mr. Immortal, but I do agree with the overall sentiment. In that respect, GLA is a job well done.
And, in between all that, we get more comedy. Some bits are a bit self-referential (is a casual reader going to know why a footprint on Monkey Joe’s brain is funny? Probably not), but most of it is character-based, just as it should be. It’s certainly dark, but what else can you do when your team leader is a guy whose power is to die and come back? Anyway, the ending promises the end of darkness, as well as a new beginning of sorts for the team, in a gag I just loved to pieces.
Paul Pelletier has rapidly become one of my favorite artists in the last few months. He’s great at expressions and body language, which are two of the most important tools in an artist’s box. I mean, this guy can make Mr. Immortal look heroic while wearing tighty-whities and a wife-beater. That’s impressive, no matter how you slice it. He also does some nice show-off stuff towards the end, as everything comes spiraling down towards the inevitable, but fun, finale.
If I have any criticism for this book at all, it’s that it qualifies in the current marketplace as “retro.” Super-cosmic plots, fun characters, bizarre twists, and grown men being devoured by squirrels? That’s what comics are for.
Astonishing X-Men 11
By Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
Okay, that makes a bit more sense. True, the Danger Room (or just Danger; wasn’t that an 80s hair band?) is still pulling an Ultron, but at least its deep desire to kill the X-Men wasn’t so much a “it’s what I do” as a “you’re in my way.” And I can even see now why it’s got such a mad-on for Xavier. I mean, how would you feel if you knew that your only purpose in existence was as a weapon? Shinji, don’t answer that.
Whedon does what he does best here, which is intersperse a few killer action scenes with top-notch dialogue and interaction. While I enjoyed the Kitty/Peter moment, I was even more impressed by Xavier’s staunchly pragmatic ways of dealing with Danger. He’s a great man, but few of history’s great men have been saints, and it’s good to get a little reminder of that now and then.
Much as I enjoy Whedon’s writing, it’s the melding with the amazing art of John Cassaday that makes this book a winner for me. While he relies a bit too much on “widescreen” effects in his layouts for my taste, his composition is excellent, his level of detail borders on Michelangian, and I just love to death the way he draw Colossus. Gotta love that spread at the end, too.
X-Men is, at its heart, character-driven pulp adventure with mutants as the genre-requisite backdrop. In that capacity, Joss Whedon writes and John Cassaday proudly continue the legacy that made this franchise a winner. My hats off to them, and I eagerly await the next issue. (Hint, hint, boys.)
The Grade: A-
Incredible Hulk 84 – “Terra Incognita, part 2”
By Peter David and Jorge Lucas
Hey, look, Sean Connery! Or at least a half-assed rendition of him!
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I continue to enjoy this take on an out-of-the-way corner of the House of M. In between some more interesting explorations of Bruce Banner’s psyche, we also get some good Hulky action, especially towards the end. David made a good choice in making Exodus the Hulk’s main adversary for this story, since it’d be a pretty short fight if he went up against just Pyro and the Vanisher. I also enjoyed the little twist that came with Machine Teen, since it makes him actually germane to the plot. And the ending, well, it’s the kind that simultaneously makes you go “cool” and “oh, this can’t end well at all.”
There were little bits I didn’t care for, though. I don’t particularly give a damn about this new Scorpion, in or out of the House of M, and this story didn’t do anything to change that. The second and third scenes look out of order; if they’re not, the flow of the story doesn’t really make much sense, and if they are, well, the flow of the story still doesn’t make much sense. I must be missing something, but damned if I know what it is.
I have less of a problem with Lucas’ art this time around, which is good. I think it boils down to his inking style working much better in scenes not set in the middle of the forest. And he does draw an impressive Hulk.
The end of Peter David’s little “reunion tour” on the book that made his comics career was announced at San Diego over the weekend. I’ll be sad to see him go, but it’s good to know he’s still on the ball with what makes ol’ Greenskin tick.
The Grade: B-
Exiles 67 – “Destroy All Monsters, part 2”
By Tony Bedard and Jim Calafiore
Hey, remember what I said last time about the Exiles’ presence not always being beneficial to a world? Case in point, as it turns out that by showing up on Planet Kaiju, they actually made the situation worse. It’s a good plot twist made even better by how it’s pulled off.
Okay, we’re talking giant monsters here, so you have to pull out all the genre stops. Consider them pulled, as Bedard gives us several new ways to think about the genre while playing around in a skewed version of the big Marvel sandbox. It works for both the underlying theme of the material and the two monsters he’s chosen in particular (the latter of whom shows up in one of the best intros I’ve seen in a while). And shit, Red fucking Ronin shows up. I said a while back on CBR that Red Ronin is the kind of thing we don’t see enough in comics nowadays, and well, here he is, in all his giant Japanese robot glory. Can’t wait for the inevitable fight next issue.
Meanwhile, back at the Crystal Palace (someone should tell Zeromus he’s got squatters), another plot thread gets dropped, one that will no doubt have an interesting impact on the future storyline. We’re either getting a “new” member, or one of the current ones is going to die, and that means, well, a new member. God, I love this concept.
Calafiore’s been a solid hitter on this title since the start, so it’s fitting that his swan song bridge the old era and the new. His style doesn’t make any bold leaps forward or anything, but it doesn’t have to; he gets it right. I do love the way he draws Beak.
Exiles is a book that survives on its concept; in that respect, it’s a bit surprising that it’s lasted as long as it has. But I’m glad that’s the case, because it’s a fun book with solid characters and an obvious love for what makes the medium and the genre great.
Teen Titans 26 – “Soul Searching”
By Geoff Johns and Tony Daniel
So, after two months of kicking his teammates around at the behest of Lex Luthor, Superboy mopes around the Kent farm until Raven snaps him out of it. OK, I can buy that. Conner’s been through some trauma lately, and that’s gotta be dealt with. But boy, Superboy and mopey aren’t two flavors that go well together for me.
Technically, I’ve got no complaints; the little trip through Conner’s subconscious adequately sets things up, and Raven is the perfect character catalyst for the story. We understand Conner’s love for his friends, and through it, his enormous guilt. The beats work. But I want Superboy to whip off that damned T-shirt and be a little more like his old self again. I mean, we’ve got Robin and Raven for the dark and brooding stuff; Superboy should be there for color. Hopefully, now that this story seems to have run its course, we can get back to that a little.
Tony Daniel’s art is largely “meh.” He does nice work when Superboy fights his “Insider” self, but his body work is a bit too exaggerated, and he totally blows Raven’s entrance with a distinctly pin-uppy shot.
I think the fill-in Liefeld/Simone arc came at the right time for me; I could use a break from this version of the Titans for a while. I’ll be back in October, ‘cause there’s no way a Robin-phile like me is missing a Tim Drake/Jason Todd title match, but I’m feeling a little burnt out on the angst at the mo. Being a teen doesn’t all suck.
Wildguard: Fool’s Gold 2
By Todd Nauck
Well, I wasn’t expecting that. The third installment of “that superhero reality show book thingy” provides some interesting surprises, a couple of new characters, more trouble within the cast, and a fight between a dragon and a giant ogre. That didn’t suck.
Nauck’s at his best when he just throws his characters at a situation and lets them stick to the wall. For most of this issue, that’s what happens, and it’s good. The big monster fight, especially Lily Hammer’s unexpected part in it, goes pretty well, although some of the dialogue with Freezerburn and Laserwolf felt off. But everyone got a chance to shine, and we saw some new depths of resourcefulness for our heroes that make it clear that the right people made the team.
After the fight, though, the conclusion runs a bit long, and reads for the most part like a stretch of the Weekly Wildguard strips Nauck does on the website. Lots of exposition and wrap-up, and while we get a few new steps for some of our characters (including a surprising revelation about Four), it feels like filler. I don’t come to this book for filler.
The Travel Agent backup was a nice little piece, lighter in tone but as enjoyable as the American Icon story from last issue. TA was in my handful of hopefuls to make the cut, so I’m glad to see more of him. Still, the end of the story highlights an issue that’s starting to nag at me. Between Fool’s Gold, the original mini, and all three “Where Are They Now?” backups, we’ve got five or six subplots dropped. Next time out, I’d like to see some more light shed on one of these. Of course, now that I’ve said this, it’ll turn out that they’re all interrelated, and it’s all part of Todd’s master plan, and I’ll look like a schmuck. But I can take that, if it means some resolution.
Got nothin’ to say about the art other than I like it.
While this was a bit of a dip in story quality for the book, I’m still greatly enjoying this book and these characters. Viva Wildguard.
The Grade: B
Quotes of the Week: New feature, and this time out, it’s a tie! First, from Astonishing X-Men 11: “If we didn’t have limitations, what would God do with his time?”
Next, from GLA 4: “When destroying the universe, start in Milwaukee!”