Thursday, 30 August 2012
If the cover of this Annual wasn't enough to tip you off, it's that time again. A Green Lantern one-shot, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Ethan Van Sciver? Any long-time fan will know in an instant we're on the verge of another groundbreaking event, that will shake the DC universe to it's core! Since 2004, this all-star creative team has guided us through many a major happening, so when they're together, you know it's about to kick-off. This time around we're on the verge of the "Rise of the Third Army", a story with genuinely horrifying implications.
Having been freed from his shackles as a living member of the Indigo Tribe and returned to his undead Black Lantern state, Black Hand casts one hell of a scary shadow. He barely even needs to lay a finger on our dynamic duo and yet he's inflicting severe psychological damage with every barb. You can almost sense the glee with which Geoff Johns writes this villain. While Blackest Night left the character on the back-burner for the most part, instead focusing on Nekron and his army, this story is the true showcase for Black Hand. A particularly sadistic moment features Hand taunting Hal with an offer to bring his father back to life. Hal knows for a fact that the Black Lanterns aren't the genuine article, but Hand throws in just enough doubt about Nekron being gone and no ring to control the body, that you can see the temptation on his face. He eventually comes to his senses, but that moment is beautifully realised. It resonates heavily later on, as even when his own life is put in danger, Hal is more concerned with not letting Hand disturb his father's remains.
Hal and Sinestro also manage to fit in a wonderful array of teamwork in this issue. To think, only a couple of years ago, these men were at each other's throats, their own worst enemies. But now, they've developed this terrific buddy cop dynamic ala Lethal Weapon. They may not like each other, but they've got each other's backs without question. Hal immediately rushing over to dig up Sinestro and Sinestro with the last second save when all else fails. Sadly, this issue acts as a last hurrah for such a team, as their final fates have been left a mystery for the time being, making way for the new Arab-American Green Lantern, Baz. I'm definitely going to miss the combination of Hal and Sinestro. Whoever this new GL is, he's got big shoes to fill. But if anyone can write an entertaining new character, it's Geoff Johns.
Finally, several big Guardian secrets are revealed. We've long suspected that the little blue men aren't as noble and virtuous as they make themselves out to be and this is the point of no return. They ransack an ancient vault, murdering their long lost brethren as they go and steal the appropriately ominous "first lantern". Absorbing power from this relic, the Guardians channel their might into the creation of a new species - the Third Army. A mindless brute, their heart removed, seeking to transform others into unfeeling monsters in their own image. If it wasn't scary enough that the Guardians now have an army of unthinking creatures at their disposal, the way it assimilates innocents and makes them into mirror images, is downright terrifying. The crowning achievement being the victim's eyes left unaffected, a horrifying reminder of just who that creature used to be. For the moment, it's transforming random red-shirts who happen to wander into it's path, but I genuinely fear for any hero that meets that fate.
9 out of 10
Saturday, 25 August 2012
After the brief respite of Talia's origin last issue, we're back, knee-deep in Wayne family affairs. It's quickly revealed that Damian is alive and well, hiding out from his mother's Leviathan army in the safety of the Batcave. But as anyone who's known Damian for more than five minutes will tell you, he's not likely to stay there! The majority of this issue falls to long-time Batman alter-ego, Matches Malone. It's been a while since Bruce donned this disguise, so it's good to see him take the wannabe-mobster out of mothballs. He puts so much gusto into his performance, it's hard to believe Bruce isn't having just a smidge of fun in the role. However, when coming to the aid of a hassled club singer, he gets himself into more trouble than he bargained for. Ultimately, a fantastic read with fantastic art. Why aren't you reading this already? 9/10
Continuing the trend of the past year, the adventures of this New 52 Superman have been spotty at best. No true drive or overarching storyline, they're simply random fights against forgettable foes. This issue is no different, opening on Superman held captive by an aggressive alien race (who bare an uncanny resemblance to Predators) and he's unable to communicate with them. Little more actually happens, besides a bizarre B-plot that bookends the issue, with Lucy Lane wanting to go bungee jumping. These don't feel like essential Superman tales that someone has been waiting a lifetime to tell. If anything, it's pure filler material. No one will remember this issue, no one will quote it in the future, it exists purely to have a Superman series on the racks. 2/10
As this volume of The Punisher enters the home stretch, the reasons behind the upcoming War Zone mini-series become a little clearer. This issue opens on Frank surrounded by discarded Marvel Universe tech. Iron Man's helmet, Cyclops' visor, Spider-Man's webshooter, one of Doc Ock's mechanical arms, etc. How could he not draw the Avengers' scorn amassing an armory like that. But until then, he still has plenty of mobsters left to kill. To this end, he and his protege set up a buy for pieces of said technology, in an otherwise impenetrable location. Little do the criminals know, that's exactly where Frank wants them! The evolution of Rachel Cole-Alves over the past 13 issues has been fantastic and this installment provides yet another important piece of the puzzle. It'll be a wonder if this character isn't a permanent addition to the Punisher status quo going forward. 8/10
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SPIKE #1
While the idea of a Spike solo mini-series is a no-brainer, this book is so steeped in recent continuity, it's sure to confuse alot of casual readers. To clarify, in a recent issue of Buffy Season 9, Spike decided he could no longer be Buffy's consolation prize, the dark place she runs to when things don't go her way. As such, our favourite English vampire has taken his spaceship (that's right, he has a spaceship now) and retreated to the dark side of the Moon for the purposes of excessive drinking and all-around moping. His insectoid crew don't take kindly to their captain's new melancholy attitude and verge on mutiny. While being a fun issue in and of itself, I can't help but feel the character is so far out of his (and our) comfort zone, the point of this series is entirely lost. Take William the Bloody back to Earth and have him carve out a niche where it really counts. 6/10
Thursday, 23 August 2012
A nerdy high school student visits a laboratory with his class, only to be granted superpowers. Sound familiar? Well this time, it's Peter Parker on the outside looking in, as one of his demonstrations inadvertently creates a new hero by the name of Alpha! However, that is where the similarity ends, as Alpha quickly goes off the rails and uses his newfound powers for all the wrong things! What was initially touted as Spidey's first sidekick, soon becomes an in-continuity What If story. With no pretense of a secret identity, Alpha uses his abilities to do what we all would - make money, impress girls, make fools of jocks, etc. This was a fun opening chapter to a story that I'm sure will have dire consequences for our favourite wall-crawler. The bigger Alpha's profile gets (and his ego at that), the more attention he attracts... 8/10
GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #12
This series has always struck me as the odd one out among it's Green Lantern brethren. The premise of all the Lantern Corps uniting as one sprang out of Blackest Night, where it was used most effectively. At that time, the team consisted of only the most high profile of Lanterns, whether it be Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Carol Ferris, etc. These were the proverbial cream of the crop. However, this ongoing series has basically been surviving on scraps, as all those other characters are busy elsewhere, giving the impression this is strictly the B-team. To my surprise, it wasn't as bad as I expected. As their first year draws to a close, so does their conflict against the almighty Invictus. But that isn't the real narrative meat of the issue. Instead, we finally find out who stole all those Lantern rings way back in Issue 1 and just what they hoped to achieve by sending them to Kyle Rayner. These reveals are far more satisfying than any random slugfest with a musclebound villain. The issue ends on an ominous note, leaving me dying to know what role this team will play in the DC universe going forward. 7/10
This book is a mess, plain and simple. Whether it be the plotting, telling an insane story about States succeeding and Texas threatening to nuke the rest of America. More so, the art varies wildly from page to page. One reveling in realism, another boldly stylised, as if it were straight from a cartoon. In a year where "The Avengers" is pulling in a billion dollars worldwide, how does the series that inspired it flounder so badly? Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention quite how ugly the redesigned costumes of Captain America and Iron Man are. Both are clunky and cumbersome, which is the last thing you'd expect icons to be wearing. This book reminds me alot of Squadron Supreme post-JMS. It's ugly, directionless and missing the magic that made it a must-read in the first place. This is the reanimated corpse of a once great series. Avoid at all costs. 1/10
UNCANNY X-MEN #17
Despite falling smack dab in the middle of AvX, this arc has been more of a side story about the Phoenix Five (still intact at this point) taking down long-time foe, Mister Sinister. It's actually rather handy the focus of the event isn't on this adventure, as it would undercut everything the main series was putting across. While the combined might of every single Avenger struggled to make a dent in one of the Phoenix Five, Mister Sinister keeps ALL FIVE captive for an entire issue. Admittedly, there's a panel that proves the Phoenix is too powerful to contain, but to have such an unstoppable force...stopped, is a little strange. The majority of the issue falls to the remainder of Cyclops' Extinction team i.e. Psylocke, Storm, Magneto and Danger, as they plot to sneak their way into Sinister's castle and liberate their comrades. The teamwork on display is fantastic and even with all the ulterior motives flying around, these are combinations that work. Infact, this issue features my favourite Psylocke moment ever, bar none. I've never liked the character before, so to hear myself laughing out loud at her antics was a complete surprise. I'm positively begging for that to be her new catchphrase. It'd rival "it's clobberin' time" and "flame on". 8/10