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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Recent Developments

Back again with more comic talk. Since classes begin next week, this may be the last regular update for a while. I'll try to keep posting but we'll see. So I'll just talk about a bunch of books and junk.

First up, and maybe most "noteworthy" is Part 6 of DC's "Trinity War" event that takes place in Justice League #23. Geoff Johns wraps this up (and I use that word lightly) by directly paving the way for the event that DC really gives half a shit about, "Forever Evil", which will take place in the 7-part limited series named the same. The various heroes of Earth have been fighting over Pandora's Box because of how it can seal all of mankind's sins back into it. Turns out that the Secret Society of Super Villains wants them to open it back up. The Outsider, the leader of the Secret Society, is a being from a parallel Earth and Pandora's Box is actually a gateway to it. The "Trinity" in the title is actually referring to Earth-3, the very same Earth that The Outsider is from (so they explain almost verbatim in the issue, still kind of a jump). And the box opens, and a portal is created. Who should step out of the portal? Why, none other than the rulers of Earth-3, the Crime Syndicate; alternate, evil versions of the Justice League. I guess the final splash page was supposed to be a shocker, but with DC's intended audience of 45 year olds (that is what they actually said), they already read solicits for future books and could have guessed this. Nothing is a surprise. I'm just glad this is done so the actual event can begin, and it still doesn't seem like an event so much as just "the next thing". Geoff Johns already did something similar in his Green Lantern books; his "event" called "Rise of the Third Army" wasn't so much an event as it was a collection of GL stories where "oh shit look out Third Army for no reason" and it was just a prologue to the actual event called "Wrath of the First Lantern" which wasn't all that much better.

On to something better. Marvel released issue 10 of Captain America, written by Rick Remender and penciled by John Romita Jr. This is the end of Remender's 10-part opening arc "Escape From Dimension Z", a sci-fi romp where classic Cap villain Arnim Zola captures Steve Rogers and imprisons him in his alternate dimension inhabited by mutated beasts. Steve is trapped in this world for a decade (but only a few hours or so in our time back on Marvel Earth). In this adventure, Steve tries to survive in a hostile alien world while being hunted by Zola's soldiers, robots, and mutates. He befriends a village of mutates that have been oppressed by Zola's rule, he has adopted Zola's test tube baby and named him Ian, he has fought so very long in this new world all while holding on to hope that he will make it out or at least see the next day alive with his new "son" Ian. This is a fantastic story by Remender, and a stark contrast to Ed Brubaker's long but also fantastic run on the character that focused more on his soldier background and gave him a sort of super-spy feel at times. Romita Jr., artist of Kick-Ass, among other books, does good work here illustrating an alien world with some Jack Kirby influences. Remender recently wrote Uncanny X-Force, an excellent run on a black-ops team of mutants. His stories span multiple arcs and show deep connections without getting too obtuse. So with the end of this first arc, Steve has been scarred and has suffered many setbacks and metaphorical kicks to the balls, and he is definitely a changed man. I highly recommend picking up this title because it is going to good places, and for sure be sure to read the first ten issues. It is amazing, and a heart breaker.

I recently decided to give Red Hood and the Outlaws from DC another shot. I read it when it first came out with the New52 reboot, but couldn't get behind it. But the team of formerly-deceased former-Robin Jason Todd (Red Hood), ex-Green Arrow sidekick Roy Harper (Arsenal), and self-exiled Tamaranian Princess Koriand'r (Starfire) demanded my renewed attention. The first 19 issues were written by Scott Lobdell, who was big in the 90's, and the first 12 or so issues were illustrated by Kenneth Rocafort. The initial story is about a team of outcasts that deal with evil in their own "extreme" fashion. There is a lot of background to these characters and it actually makes for an interesting story when I read it again. The first arc takes some missteps, among them being pacing issues and sudden cuts to a page of seemingly irrelevant events, but around issue 11 the story picks up. At this point the story takes the Outlaws to space to help Starfire with some of that pesky backstory. It's a pretty fun sci-fi space opera type story and Rocafort's art really lends itself well to that sort of story, with his unique designs and details along with his dynamic panel layouts (just look at the Star Wars-inspired cover he did to the right, that is pretty par for the course for the first handful of issues).

The main underlying story revolves around Jason Todd and his training after being resurrected by Batman villain Talia al Ghul. He is taken in by the other-worldly monks and warriors of the All-Caste and he is trained to fight the ancient evil of the Untitled, demonic immortals who have been trying to upset the balance of the world since its creation. It's and interesting story, but what makes this book, I think, are the interactions between the teammates. Out of the many Lobdell-penned books of the New52, I think this is his strongest. He keeps the endless dialogue he is known for to a (relative) minimum and seems to really make this a blockbuster-styled 90's book. He has written other properties that have had established changes and evolutions through the ages (such as Teen Titans), and his style doesn't always fit. He is a very 90's kind of writer, with tell-not-show exposition, flashy characters, and gritty action, and with a brand new team without established canon, it works. It's like a Michael Bay movie, leave your brain at the door and have a good time. It starts off rocky but gets pretty enjoyable, if not without a few hiccups.

Around issue 20 the book gets a new creative team. James Tynion IV writes while Julius Gopez does art duty. This is a trade-off in my opinion from the last creative team. Rocafort's art was the highlight over Lobdell's writing last time, but now it's switched. Tynion takes the characters and runs with them, streamlining dialogue a little but keeping the feel of them intact, but Gopez's art just doesn't do it for me. It's chock full of odd poses, faces with too many lines, and some Rob Liefeld-esque designs (as you can see in the panels shown, where Arsenal takes on the League of Assassins single-handedly with a literal arsenal of weaponry, with an oversized cannon with multiple barrels and questionable perspective, but I'm kind of hoping it's a tongue-in-cheek jab at Liefeld characters of the 90's). I just miss Rocafort's art. That would make this book top notch with him and Tynion making it their own. Although, like the rest of the New52, it relies too much on continuity (a lot from before the reboot, which really irks me) instead of the already established stories, further showing this whole thing isn't all that great of a "reboot".

So with that my hands are tired. So good night, internet tumbleweeds.

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