THE FLASH / GENERATION X / STAR WARS / LUKE CAGE / ALL-STAR BATMAN / SECRET WARRIORS [Reviews]: Lightning Round.
Another week, and yet another series of titles to look forward to, fellow geeks and geekettes! We’re halfway through the month, and nearly through the year by this point, but that doesn’t mean that the best things aren’t yet on their way! We’ve got some books from DC, Marvel, and one set in a familiar galaxy far, far away…
Let’s get right down to the Friday Night Stash, now, shall we?!
The Button. That button. That f’n Button. After more than a year of speculation, DC finally turns its attention to that oh so familiar Button. The Comedian’s bloodstained Button. Or is it? Could it be? Is this it? Or some giant elaborate swerve? Oh, no. It is. No two ways around it. Dr. Manhattan, Watchmen, angry Alan Moore. Whole kit ‘n kaboodle. As for this issue itself, there really isn’t much to say. Howard Porter (Justice League 3001, Scooby Apocalypse) draws a bunch of pages of Batman and “Damn it Barry” Allen-Flash being flung through time and space connected to a failing Time Treadmill. They wax poetic about the Reverse Flash, The Flashpoint Universe and Batman’s Dad as Batman as they try to make it home.
But someone else is in there with them — the soon-to-be-dead Reverse Flash! He continues to make an Barry’s life a living nightmare. But, just when you think all hope is lost, we get the big return of one of the greatest heroes of all time. I won’t spoil it for you; I’ll leave that to Google. But don’t get too attached, he’s gone before we reach the end of this book. Of flippin’ course. No real resolution here. Just a teaser for later. Joshua Williams and Geoff Johns started this four part story with a blast of fun and excitement. Then it was followed up with three issues of total meh. See you in November, I guess. 2.5/5 Bibles.
First issues are always a tricky business. There are the normal pitfalls of providing quite a lot of exposition and world building in an economic way, introduce new characters and still hook the reader. However, they become especially complicated in an established universe like X-Men as they not only need to speak with their own voice and carve out something fresh, but they have to do so while having juuust the right amount of familiarity, all the while paying respect to it’s predecessors. As someone who comes from a film and television background– and I’m far from being well-versed in the X-Men Universe– jumping into Generation X was a bit like a blind-watch of a brand new television series offering. Well, luckily for me, and I’m guessing quite a few readers as well, Christina Strain is well-versed in both the comic world with a rich history as a colorist on some pretty rad titles and she also began her writing career as a screenwriter. It all absolutely shows in the best way.
Generation X seems to have that transcendent quality in a comic that takes it from merely a storyboard to a story, rich with it’s own unique attitude, flare and personality. The character work is fantastic right out of the gate. From established players like Jubilee to fresh faces like the “psychosemetric” Nathaniel Carver, there is something to latch onto. Strong showings from artist Amilcar Pinna, who is on his game in the artwork department as is colorist, Felipe Sobreiro. Generation X #1 has definitely cleared the tricky hurdles of establishing issues and done so with swagger. I recommend taking a trip to The Jean Grey School of Gifted Youngsters and checking out what this new creative team has to offer up. Don’t forget your hall pass and be sure to watch your step; you wouldn’t want to scuff up Quentin Quire’s Berlutis. 4/5 Bibles.
Marvel is back at it with their second Star Wars crossover. This time following the unlikely team of Rebel pilot/aspiring Jedi Luke Skywalker and Rogue Archaeologist Doctor Aphra. Taking place between Episodes IV and V, The Screaming Citadel finds Luke joining forces with Doctor Aphra. For her, she wants to use his force sensitivity to impress a queen, while Luke is lured in by her promise of access to a computer file that contains the full consciousness of an ancient Jedi. One of the best parts of the issue is becoming reacquainted with Doctor Aprha’s sidekicks, which come across as alternate “mirror mirror” versions of our favorite wookie, astro, and protocol droids.
Scribe Kieron Gillen (coming off his well-received Darth Vader series) pens the book. While he does a good job at propelling the story along, I can’t help but feel that quite a few of the dialogue choices and motivations are out of character and there are panels upon panels of exposition dumps. One particular panel early on had me exclaiming in my head “oh, that’s not how Luke would act”. The story largely feels like its goal is to diverge from the usual Star Wars formula, into something a bit more sinister. We won’t know till the end of the run (five issues) how that plays out, but so far it’s interesting, to say the least. The art by Marco Checchetto is beautiful and crisp, and does a great job at capturing this alternate, seedier side of the Star Wars universe. 3.5/5 Bibles.
Marvel’s latest reboot of iconic Blaxploitation hero, Luke Cage, is a decidedly uncampy rendering, more in line with the hit Netflix series than previous iterations. This Cage is very human and quite serious about his responsibilities. In fact, his introspection leads him to the funeral of his creator and down a path of dangerous secrets surrounding his own origin. Conceived as a mystery, the story takes twists and turns that raises the stakes pretty high by the final panel with our hero in mortal danger before any answers are revealed. David Walker also writes the Power Man and Iron Fist title, and the difference in tones showcase his skillful story craft. His deep characterization is supported by dynamic artwork by Nelson Blake (WitchBlade) brought to life by colorist, Mario Menyz (Green Hornet). This book is highly compelling and definitely worth following. 5/5 Harlem Shakes.
Since DC Rebirth began, the Batman titles have been the best from top to bottom since I started reading weekly comics over a decade ago and All-Star Batman has been the best of the bunch. This run has continued Scott Snyder‘s near flawless work on Batman titles spanning almost 7 years and 3 universes and issue #10 maintains that level of quality.
This issue, the first part of the new story arc “The First Ally,” has everything that has made the previous 9 issues such a joy to read: a breakneck pace that’s loaded with action, constant twists and turns that both upend expectations and create some genuine laughs, elements of and references to previous Batman stories (in comics and other media as well) and new ways of dealing with older characters (this is, BY FAR, my favorite use of Hush). The backup story, “Killers-In-Law”, is just as fun, and rounds out a damn good issue. The only drawback, and it’s a slight one, is that, while Rafael Albuquerque‘s art is very good, it’s still a slight step down from Jock, Francesco Francavilla, and John Romita Jr. All in all, this is another fantastic issue of what’s been a fantastic series. 4.75/5 Middle Fingers to the Law.
Well, I have now read this, my second title in the “Secret Empire” arc, and it’s piqued my interest just a bit (not enough to go on buying 20 or so issues a month, but interesting enough). Here we follow Quake, as she travels throughout the Bronx and Four Boroughs, encountering some fellow Inhumans, and Moon Girl, as she makes her way towards a Hydra-run superhero gulag to rescue one sole inhabitant…one who actually enjoys his current state of affairs.
At first read, the art (by Javier Garrón) was a bit off-putting: too cartoonish and not tonally meshing with the overall seriousness of the story,; but once Moon Girl and Ms. Marvel showed up, it felt more natural and tonally appropriate. The story, as written by Matthew Rosenberg, jumps around a bit, but focuses solely on S.H.I.E.L.D. and how they’re reacting to Captain America’s recent…character change (that’s the polite way to put it, right? Without offending people who haven’t or won’t read these books?). Truth be told, this is my first encounter with several characters, but it thankfully didn’t feel like walking into the middle of a conversation. Naturally, it helps to know what the overall story of “Secret Empire” currently is, but this doesn’t throw so much exposition as to lose the reader. A solid story, through and through. Hopefully this will be the last of the major arcs for a while: not only can my wallet use a break, but so can keeping track with what event happens in what title. Fun as this arc is, I’d rather just concentrate on a single title for a complete story in the near future, and not need to buy eight titles at a time. 3.75/5 Devil Dinos.