Advent Review #23: Fast-Shot Comics Reviews 17.12.2014

Doing as many reviews as I do, especially for the holiday-themed Advent Reviews, things tend to slip through the cracks quite a bit, compounded by the fact that I tend to read somewhere in the region of three dozen comics each week. Or try to at least. Fast-Shot Comics Reviews is a way to cover many more comics than I’d usually be able to get around to, which is kind of ironic since there was a point some months back when I could do 12-13 reviews a week easy, but that time’s long gone. Hence, this new segment. Hope you enjoy this week’s offering, which might be the last for the year, depending on what happens next Wednesday on New Year’s Eve.

The picks for this week are: Bitch Planet #1, Django/Zorro #2, G.I. Joe #2-4, Scarlet Spiders #2, Spider-Woman #2, Batman: Eternal #36-37 and Justice League #37.

Bitch Planet #1:

Kelly Sue DeConnick is, undoubtedly, one of the biggest names in comics right now, especially where female creators are concerned. I’m more familiar with her work on Captain Marvel since Marvel’s recent Marvel NOW! reboot, so that’s pretty much the extent of my interaction with her, but she has definitely become quite a hit in the fandom, inspiring several notable fan followings. Bitch Planet is her latest series, coming from Image Comics, and it is a very, very different book to her current ongoing work, or even to her past work, from what I can tell.

In Bitch Planet #1, we are presented with a vision of the future where women who are outright criminals, or are arrested on nebulous criminal charges ranging from disobedience towards authority to perhaps even body proportions, are all sent to a prison planet named Bitch Planet. It is an exclusively women’s prison, and it has all the tropes you might expect. The story is split into two narratives, one at the prison itself, and one back on Earth where an imprisoned woman’s husband tries to free her.

It is an interesting story certainly, but I was kind of lost in the whole… pedestrian-style of it all. It reads like a standard prison exploitation movie, full of male entitlement and misogyny, and I’m kind of really confused by it all. That it is a big departure from Kelly’s other work is a sure thing, and I think the point is to show these very things, but I’m going to wait for a couple more issues before passing any kind of sure judgement on this.

Valentine De Landro is the artist on this, with the awesome Cris Peter on colours, and Clayton Cowles on the letters, and the cover is by Valentine herself. There’s kind of this whole throwback retro thing going on with the artwork with often bright neon-like colours right alongside some darker, even muted palettes, and it is a thing that works really well, which I kind of expect from Cris since I’ve seen some of her previous work and love it. The linework generally is pretty good too, though there are a few scenes where a bit more clarity to the artwork wouldn’t have hurt.

A decent enough start, but somewhat wobbly too.

Rating: 8/10

Django/Zorro #2:

Last month’s Django/Zorro #1 was a great surprise. While Django Unchained was an unremarkable and even boring movie for me, the comic last month, that pits one of the Wild West’s greatest legends against its newest, was a great read. And it looks like the second issue is carrying on from that, with the same passion and excitement, which makes me feel really good about the future of the title.

While in the debut issue we saw how the two heroes met and allied themselves in common cause, in the new issue from last week we see why exactly it is that Zorro is on a mission in Arizona, and where perhaps Django falls in. Much of the issue deals with the “origins” of the villain in question, someone who is basically a fraud of the highest order but also happens to be the ruler of most of Arizona itself, which is a pretty big target to go up against. And Django almost says it as much.

I loved the origin story, though I was also initially wrongfooted since it didn’t read as I expected it to, to be Zorro’s humble origins that is, but once it starts clicking together, it really does click, and writers Quentin Tarantino and Matt Wagner pretty much outdo themselves here.

Esteve Polis’ art, Brennan Wagner’s colours, Simon Bowland’s letters, and the cover by Jae Lee and June Chung all serve to enhance the inherent feel of the comic. You get to see much more than the Wild West this time around since a fair bit of the comic takes place “back home” in Spain, but at the same time, the characters are the focus and they get lavished a ton of attention, which is fine with me!

Rating: 9.5/10

More Django/Zorro: #1.

G.I. Joe #2-4:

Under the auspices of IDW Publishing, the G.I. Joe franchise has seen several reboots over the last fear years. The comics don’t tend to go beyond two years or so before they are all renumbered and relaunched, which I think kind of hurts the whole franchise since there’s no stability to things. But at the same time, if more of the comics are like Karen Traviss and Steve Kurth’s recent reboot, then I don’t have a problem with things. Particularly since these also remind me of the time that Christos Gage and Mike Costa have spent on the various titles as writers, which is all I’ve wanted from these really.

After the tense and exciting installment that was the new G.I. Joe #1, things got even more hectic as events proceeded full-speed ahead. Bombings, murders, information leaks, geopolitical diplomacy, back-room deals, these and more can be found in the pages of G.I. Joe #2-4. Each issue has something that it does really well in turn, whether that is the character stuff in the first of these, the intricate plots in the second one, or the tense intersectional moments in the latest issue where we see that Tomax Paoli isn’t really the forgiving sort towards those who disobey him, or that the Baroness is set on finding on just what the hell is going on with everything around her.

And then we have the Joes as well, scattered and battered in equal measure, struggling to keep their reduced strength being a decider in the web of politics that COBRA is spinning.

Suffice to say, though I can’t go into a more detailed review of these three issues, that they do much to alleviate many of my concerns from the first issue, and that it seems by G.I. Joe #4 that Karen is really hitting her stride with these characters, with her own delightful little spin on things.

And Steve Kurth’s art, with Kito Young’s colours, and Tom B. Long’s letters, is slowly developing as well. The characters have a better range of emotions, their body language is better, and overall the action is much better too. I’m definitely enjoying the art much more than I did previously, and I’m pretty grateful to see a nice solid uptick in it.

Rating: 9.5/10

More G.I. Joe v4: #1.

More G.I. Joe: (v1) Vol.1, Vol.2; (Cobra) Vol.1, Vol.2; (Cobra Command) Vol.1, Vol.2Vol.3; (Special Missions) #1-3.

Scarlet Spiders #2:

Scarlet Spiders is one of the many mini-series that have debuted in the wake of the ongoing Spider-Verse event, and it focuses on three particular clones of Peter Parker: Kaine from Earth-616, Jessica Drew from Ultimate Universe, and Ben Reilly from another alternate Earth where he is the Spider-Man and not Peter Parker. The first issue last month was a really good one, a bit slow in some areas, but with some great action nonetheless.

This past week’s Scarlet Spiders #2 carries on in great fashion from where the first issue left off, and it has a great mix of action and character development that shows off all three characters to the best of their abilities and their inner struggles. I mentioned last time that the camaraderie between them was pretty great and that too holds true for this issue, where we see more of them. And also, we get to see Kaine feature for a significant stretch of the issue, where his badassness really comes to the fore.

Of course, we also have the villain Jennix do some concrete things in this issue, on the tails of his recent resurrection, and the story is headed off to a great showdown next month when all four primary characters head off in quite the epic manner. Jennix initially came off as a sort-of boring villain, but he’s developed nicely in the new issue.

The art by the team of Paco Diaz, Israel Silva, VC’s Travis Lanham and David Nakayama is also pretty excellent this time around. There is much more visual cohesion in the panels, and the story-flow has improved a lot too it seems. For my money’s worth, I loved seeing Kaine in action against Jennix’s troops, and the whole deal with Ben and Jess once they all face up to Jennix in the final panels.

Rating: 9.5/10

More Scarlet Spiders: #1.

More Spider-Verse: #1; (Amazing Spider-Man) #7, #8-9; (Spider-Verse Team-Up) #1,#2; (Edge of Spider-Verse) #1, #2.

Spider-Woman #2:

Last month’s Spider-Woman #1 was one of the most-awaited issues of the year, partly for the conspiracy surrounding the title in the months leading up to it, but also because this was a brand new lease of life for the titular character with respect to getting her own series again. It was, at best, a decent enough issue that I could stick with the series for more, but it also had quite a few problems as it turned out. The main problem, of course, was that Jess (Earth-616 Jess) was basically a guest star in her own title, with an equal if not more share going to new character Cindy Moon aka Silk who is basically one of the worst female characters to debut this year, being more a jumped-up horny teenager with team-play issues than anything else.

Things overall don’t seem to have improved in this past week’s Spider-Woman #2. Sure, Jess gets to do much more this time around, but the story is utter bollocks. Jess is sent on a mission to Loomworld, the homeworld of the Inheritors who are rampaging across the multi-verse to kill any and all Spider-Totems, and things take a rather drastic turn when writer Dennis Hopeless drops not just one but two big twists on the reader’s head over the course of the issue. And none of them make any kind of sense since there’s absolutely no context for either of them, and because Hopeless uses valuable real estate to show what Cindy is up to, in what is basically a throwaway page or two.

The art, well, the art is kind of decent I suppose, but not really an improvement on what it was in the first issue. There are some acceptable moments in the issue, but the characters lack… texture in their designs. There’s little to no detail on any of them when you consider the “typical” superhero muscled look, just straight lines. And there’s a bit too much inking going on as well in certain scenes, which ruins the entire effect.

So yeah, not that much an improvement over the first issue, and I’d actually say that there are a few steps taken backwards here.

Rating: 4/10

More Spider-Woman: #1.

Batman: Eternal #36-37:

Batman #35 was a really fun issue, following on from several issues that beat around the bush for a long while, and where only in the recent weeks did we see any kind of plot progression. The issue was also notable for the fact that we finally started to see some of the reasons why Jason Bard was a mid-lister villain in the series, what caused him to turn from being an honest cop to someone who wanted to bring down Gotham’s greatest hero.

In issues #36 and #37 we see where all of that ends up going. Learning the gory details of the events that turned Jason Bard into the man he is now, it is kind of painful to watch since you really feel as if you have to sympathize with the character, but then, all of what he’s done since coming to Gotham, I don’t think there’s any forgiveness for that. Especially when he tries to kill Batman with the full force of the law and some really underhanded means, and also continues to keep the former Commissioner, Gordon, in prison.

And, most importantly, we also see the return of both Tim Drake and Harper Row. Their story was pretty much on hold for the last few months since Hush stepped onto the scene, but we finally get to see some plot progression on that note as well. I really like Harper Row, so it is nice to see her as a character. Of course, with a villain like Hush around, the family really has to come together in a big way, and as this particular arc with this supervillain comes to an end, we also see how the family begins to heal.

But that’s not all of course, because Batman’s greatest villains, the real freakshow as such, is also getting together and they all have plans their own too. Characters like Bane, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze, they are a pretty damn potent force to have around as an enemy, so where the story goes from here is anyone’s guess, though I think that they are all going to step up now as the big bads, just as Tommy Elliot aka Hush replaced Carmine Falcone previously. And in the midst of it all, we have Selina Kyle continuing on with her duties and responsibilities as the head of the Calabrese-Kyle family, controlling most of the crime in Gotham so to speak. I enjoyed Tim Seeley’s representation of Selina, which brings together the “new” Selina with the “old” Selina quite well.

Fernando Blanco, Marcelo Maiolo, Steve Wands, Tommy Lee Edwards are on the art team for #36 while Andrea Mutti, Giulia Brusco, Taylor Esposito and Tommy (once again) are on the art team for #37. Each team has a different style with the characters, and I definitely enjoyed #36 more, but the other issue also has a lot going for it, such as Mutti’s version of the various supervillains, especially Killer Croc who I thought looked rather spectacular in his scenes with Batman. Good solid stuff all around.

Rating: 9/10

More Batman: Eternal#1, #2, #3, #4, #35.

Justice League #37:

Justice League is a title that used to be one of my favourite titles from DC’s New 52 launch up until about a year ago, before the launch of the Forever Evil crossover event. But that event ended up killing a lot of my interest on it, especially when most of the event the title spent as an ancillary issue month-by-month, with little to nothing happening on it until the whole Metal Men and Cyborg 2.0 plotline really kicked in. After the event however, I gave up on the title since I didn’t like where things were headed: with Luthor blackmailing Batman and the others as he had finally managed to suss out Batman’s civilian identity and was justly being hailed as a hero by the masses since it had been him and his ad-hoc Injustice League that finally took down the Crime Syndicate of America.

But, I returned to the title about ten days back and blitzed through the issues I had given up on, and reading them all together like that, it gave me a new appreciation for what Geoff Johns had been doing on the title. The stories and the characters certainly read much better from that point on, and I’m kind of grateful that I gave up on the title initially, and now things are looking pretty damn awesome as far as I can tell.

The current arc deals with what is called the AMAZO virus. In his fit of arrogant superiority, Luthor once created a virus culled from the genetic samples of Dr. Ivo’s AMAZO robot, to use it as a fallback option to fight any superpowered heroes who… became a problem for the government, or him even. But it was locked in storage and got out in Justice League #35 when Luthor’s offices were attacked by an assassin. And now, heroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are fighting against the tide of the virus, which has laid low many other heroes and has even given some limited superpowers to ordinary people.

This is pretty much Geoff Johns at his best. I was really looking forward to seeing the Saga of the Seven Seas mini-event on Justice League and Aquaman this summer, but in the absence of that, I’ll happily take this current arc where we see Luthor as a hero, an actual bona fide hero rather than the evil manipulator and villain he usually is. Geoff’s characterization is pretty spot on, and his heroes aren’t slouches either, getting off some great dialogues and some great scenes with each other that highlight their relationships with each other.

Jason Fabok is the artist on this one with Brad Anderson on colours, Carlos M. Mangual on the letters and the cover art by Jason and Brad. The artwork here is pretty rad, I’ll admit. Ivan Reis and Joe Prado left their mark on the title for sure, and I don’t think any other artist has really come close, but Jason and Brad definitely give them a run for their money. Dynamic artwork with great body language, great expressions, great action, great everything. To be fully honest, I really don’t have any criticism of this issue from an art stand-point.

Rating: 9.5/10

More Justice League: #1-6, #7-12, #13-15, #22-23, #23.1, #23.2, #23.4, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29.

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7 thoughts on “Advent Review #23: Fast-Shot Comics Reviews 17.12.2014

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