Sunday, August 28, 2005

Comics Reviews for August 24th, 2005

Lots of books made waves this week; Batman, OMAC, Day of Vengeance, Teen Titans, Wolverine.

I didn't get any of those books, though, so you'll just have to settle for FF, Legion, and Invincible. Behold the might of Science Dog!Fantastic Four 530 – “Truth In Flight”
By J. Michael Straczynski and Mike McKone

Reed’s hypothesis proves true, as it turns out an intelligence has been piggybacking cosmic ray storms (including the one that created the FF), searching the universe for sentient life. What I like about this is that it doesn’t really change the origin of the FF that much; while it can be debated whether or not the entity deliberately bestowed the FF’s powers upon them, the choices they made in how to use them remain the same, and that’s what’s at the core of the characters. Adding more backstory doesn’t negate what the characters have done since that fateful day.
Where the story goes from there both intrigues and worries me. There’s some good comedy regarding Ben and the “stowaway,” and I like how the two have established a kind of bond, but we’re being set up for, in the next issue, what could become a ham-handed retread of the old science vs. religion argument. I trust JMS to be better than that, but my spider-sense is tingling nonetheless.
McKone shows a surprising facility for cosmic work; his starfields and flare effects are gorgeous (although credit for that no doubt must be given to the inker and colorist as well), and the layouts during the landing sequence preserve the suspense of just what has hitched a ride on the FF’s ship. He also strikes a balance between a menacing design for the creature and more benign body language, leaving the reader cautious yet hopeful about its true motives.
The appeal of the FF is that of familiar characters in fantastic situations. So far, this team is delivering on that appeal, and living up to the challenge set by their predecessors.
Grade: B+

Legion of Super-Heroes 9
By Mark Waid, Georges Jeanty, and Barry Kitson

Critics of the new Legion series have suggested that the team is full of unlikeable assholes. These people are wrong, and hopefully, this issue goes some way towards showing that.
Not that there isn’t asshole behavior; several Legionnaires give Invisible Kid a harder time than he deserves, and Brainy is, well, Brainy, but within the story are several kernels of hope. It really hinges around Invisible Kid’s earnest desire to help, and the strength of Cosmic Boy’s charisma. The story ends up showing us why the Legion needs him, and the upcoming battle with Terror Firma will hopefully bring the Legion together.
That being said, Jeanty’s art reduces the effect of the story somewhat. His technical skills are mostly up to par, but he makes several “camera” choices that I feel didn’t fully convey the right emotional impact. In addition, a coloring mistake led me to mistake Ultra Boy and Lightning Lad several times. Overall, the art job is a mediocre one, and not on the level I’ve come to expect from this book.
We get another Legion Letter Column this month. I do love these, as they combine the interactive fun of lettercols with Waid’s propensity for silly jokes.
The unevenness of the last few issues can be attributed to Barry Kitson’s personal problems that interfered with getting the book to work. Hopefully, we’re over that hump now, and in any case, the Legion continues to barrel towards its own crisis point in an entertaining manner that leaves me eager for more.
Grade: B

Invincible 25
By Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley
Backup features drawn by Corey Walker, Todd Nauck, Matthew Roberts, Joshua Luna, and Khary Randolph

So how do you celebrate two years and change of being quite possibly the best superhero comic in the universe? By sending your hero on an unexpected quest, bringing back a major character whose returned presence will have major ramifications for the entire cast, and throwing in a series Secret Origin backups. Plus, put a terrier with a jetpack on your cover.
The main story, while mostly setup for the rest of the “Different World” arc, keeps up the balance of fun and superhero action that we’ve come to expect from the book. Mark’s reaction to the arrival of “Science Dog” was unexpected but rational, and the ending page holds a shock that’s the biggest readers of this story have seen since issue 8’s reveal.
I have to give Kirkman and Ottley credit for their new “talking heads” panel technique (or maybe it’s not new, but they’re certainly bringing it back into the fore), which allows them to cram a lot of material into 22 pages without sacrificing action. I fully intend to steal it.
The backups provide some interesting insight into the characters; I think the Rex Splode one was most effective in terms of revelations. Everyone got at least one moment or revelation that I want to see explored further, though, and I’m particularly interested to learn what happened to Dupli-Kate’s twin brother.
The art varies; Nauck on Monster Girl and Roberts on Rex Splode are closest to the overall feel of the series. I like Joshua Luna’s cinematic take on Dupli-Kate’s origin, and Corey Walker surprised me with the subtlety in the flashbacks to the Immortal’s past lives. The Atom Eve story had the most interesting origin and the weakest art, I felt; Randolph’s figures were a bit too simplified for me.
Lastly is the Science Dog backup, a story fans have been interested to see for quite a while. The story works well as a Science Dog pitch piece, introducing everything we need to know about the character in a mere 8 pages. The origin recap, coming as it does as a villain’s monologue, runs a page too long and is a bit over the top, but I can’t say I’m not interested in the basics of the characters that have been set up. I mean, he’s a dog with a jetpack. That’s cool.
What sets this book apart is how effortless Kirkman makes the work seem, weaving together multiple story threads and characters without losing the true-to-life feel. Invincible would be an achievement based on that alone; the fact that it’s a marvelous story is just showing off.
Grade: A

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