Jun 09 2013

Graphic Bits Reviews: Action Comics #21, Age of Ultron #9, Green Arrow #21, Green Lantern #21 and The Movement #2

Green Arrow #21 - Andrea Sorrentino

Don’t have time for full reviews of comics? Then check out Graphic Bits: bite sized chunks of comic book goodness designed to get behind the panels and into your hearts.

This week (5 June 2013) we check out what Superman is punching in Action Comics #21 (DC Comics), see what story Age of Ultron #9 (Marvel) has decided to tell this week and reach a conclusion in Green Arrow #21 (DC Comics). Then it’s a new beginning in Green Lantern #21 (DC Comics) and then the unfortunately titled The Movement #2 (DC Comics). This is Graphic Bits.

Other reviews…Don’t forget, each week we also feature other outstanding or high-profile issues in their own reviews. Check out full reviews for Kick-Ass 3 #1 (Icon), Thor: The Dark World Prelude #1 (Marvel), Daredevil: Dark Nights #1 (Marvel) and Stalag-X #1 (Gestalt).

Action Comics #21DC Comics, Tony S. Daniel (writer/artist). Rating: ★★★
Back-up storyFrank Hannah (writers), Philip Tan (artist)

Action Comics #21 (DC Comics) coverAction Comics continues its troubled run following the sudden departure of Andy Diggle, and the misguided Grant Morrison run before that. Tony S. Daniel takes on scripting and art duties on the main story, based on a plot by Diggle, and Superman continues to punch things while his powers diminish under a faux red sun. It’s an old-fashioned monster smack-down, which is fine, but we can’t help but feel as though we’ve seen quite a few of those since the start of the Newish 52. Lex Luthor finally gets a comeuppance of sorts and an epilogue sets up a romantic rival for Clark Kent, now shunted into Lois Lane’s friend zone. There’s a few elements of All-Star Superman in there, so perhaps the legacy of Morrison has soaked into the paper. Daniel’s pencils are still quite strong, portraying Supes in all of his blue and red glory. As is the case with several DC flagships at the moment, most notably the Justice League titles, it’s the backup story that is far more intriguing. The second part of “The World of Krypton”, a backup tradition that goes back to the Silver Age of Action Comics, and stars Lara Lor-Van (Superman’s mum) as “the lone voice of dissent amid a full-scale military coup”. This untold chapter of the New 52 allows Hannah carte blanche to create new spins on worlds and characters, and in this small section achieves what much of the Newish 52 has aimed for. Tan’s pencils are superb, with Lara Lor-Van every bit the hero as a strong female character that we hope to see more of in the coming months.

Age of Ultron #9 – MarvelBrian Michael Bendis (writer), Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco (artists). Rating: ★★½

Age of Ultron #9 (Marvel)By the penultimate issue of the series, with #10A.I. and #10U.C. notwithstanding, it strikes us that the series offers virtually nothing in the way of a hook anymore. Having sent Wolverine and Sue Storm into the past, and stranding us in an alternate present that took us completely away from the main story for several issues, Bendis further renders that timeline redundant via an explosive opening gambit. Wolverine resolves to go back in time, but running into a bit of a temporal paradox, does what he now seems to do best: talk about it. Yes, nine issue in and our AU heroes are still gabbing about what to do, and accomplishing very little. The final page means that we’re probably headed back to the ideas planted in issue #1, which might be a good thing because it was such a promising opening with a solid concept. Severely hampered by pacing issues from the start, we’d be very surprised if this series isn’t simply the AvX of 2013, itself a massive sidetrack to another ‘event’. At the very least, we haven’t seen 3D motion solicited covers from this publisher…yet [NB: Issue #10 will be polybagged though]. The art, on the other hand, is solid. Pacheco in particular gets to have a bit of fun with the retro design despite the weight of the subject matter. Peterson’s work on the aftermath of Morgan Le Fay attack in the alternate present is quite stunning at times, although he seems to be more about the big picture than the detail on things like faces. It’s almost the opposite problem to the series itself, which has been so focused on sidelines that it’s lost track of the overall arc. Even if issue 10 is the greatest comic to grace the shelves, which it very well could be, by the time this issue finished we could almost hear Bendis yelling “Psych!” from behind the panels.

Green Arrow #21 – DC ComicsJeff Lemire (writer), Andrea Sorrentino (artist). Rating: ★★★★½

Green Arrow #21As Lemire brings this first chapter in his Green Arrow run to a close in this issue, it’s time to start relaxing and rest assured that the character is now in good hands. Now having delivered five terrific issues in a row, a feat not achieved by any writer on the title since the start of the Newish 52, Lemire spends this issue exploring the nature of Oliver Queen’s origin as Green Arrow. Drugged by Magus, Green Arrow experiences something akin to a vision quest, witnessing his father’s earlier search on the fateful island for the “Arrow Clan” and how that relates to his own skill set. What is essentially an exposition heavy issue is made engaging and visually interesting by the perfect comic book union of art and storytelling, literally flipping the image and keeping the imagery topsy turvy for several pages. Sorrentino outdoes even his own high standards on this issue, almost taking our breath away with an overhead shot of the island that looks straight out of a nature documentary, albeit one filtered through a heavy dose of hallucinogens. The following pages continue to keep us off-guard, as a nightmarish vision of Green Arrow’s various rogues surround him as he comes tumbling out of the top of the page. As Green Arrow exits his vision quest, all the pieces fall into place for this first arc of Lemire and Sorrentino. It’s now clear they have been purging any remnants of the first 16 issues from their system, giving Oliver Queen and his hooded counterpart the rebirth he has so desperately needed since the start of the relaunch in 2011. We leave Oliver Queen in this issue embracing his newfound poverty and accepting his place in the world,  acknowledging that it “isn’t such a bad way to find a new way to be Green Arrow… a better way”. We couldn’t agree with him more.

Green Lantern #21DC Comics, Robert Venditti (writer), Billy Tan (artist). Rating: ★★★½

Green Lantern #21All eyes are on Robert Venditti for this issue, the first chapter in the Green Lantern saga since Geoff Johns’s magnificently satisfying end to his decade-long saga last month. We’re not sure if the title of his first arc is prophetic or not, but ,“Dark Days Ahead” immediately throws the characters in at the deep end with a terrific action sequence, before flashing back to the aftermath of the previous issue and granting leadership of the GL Corps to Hal Jordan himself. As he sets about looking for new recruits, Oa is attacked by a familiar rival, and the timing couldn’t be worse. Venditti has the unenviable task of not only following in the footsteps of a giant, but in carefully balancing the action with the introductory elements needed to establish his spin on the universe. It may be several issues before we get to see what he can really bring to the table, but for now this is a solid opening gambit, albeit one that doesn’t entirely distinguish itself. Billy Tan also has to exist in the shadow of Doug Mahnke, who had a long run on the title beginning with 2009’s “Blackest Night”. Coupled with Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina’s immersive colors, he takes to the Green Lantern universe like a duck to water, not taking the task too seriously, but keeping in tone with the epic nature that the title has always had. As he cuts loose on Larfleeze and his orange cronies, Tan shows his skills as an action artist. Johns had a decade to perfect his Green Lantern run, and Venditti has only had an issue. The torch has been passed, and we look forward to his own brightest days.

The Movement #2DC ComicsGail Simone (writer), Freddie Williams II (artist). Rating: ★★½

The Movement #2A tip of the hat certainly needs to go to DC for at least trying something outside of the box with The Movement and its companion book The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires. However, one of our biggest gripes with the first issue was that these unrecognisable characters failed to define themselves as distinct entities, scarcely allowing us to remember their generic names let alone their abilities or motivations. Simone makes a conscious effort to remedy this in the second issue, but she is still struggling to overcome an admittedly difficult hurdle. All of these characters are new to the world, and we are already being asked to accept a few shocks over betrayals and other twisty twists. The Movement is yet to earn this cache, as the characters are simply not likeable enough yet. Ranging from the militant to the just plain gross (the guy who controls and eats rats is either genius or a massive misfire, we haven’t decided yet), it’s a textbook example of how difficult it is to politicise a mainstream comic to the left, especially when the company selling it to you has a vested interest in corporatisation. In contrast, last month’s Occupy Comics #1 is a genuine example of what happens when creators assemble with the best of intentions, putting their money where their mouth is and donating 100% of monies earned to the movement itself. Williams, on the other hand, does an impressive jobs of trying to distinguish some similar entities from each other. Don’t get us wrong: we would really love to see something like The Movement succeed, as it is a sign that DC is ready to start re-embracing the notion of being a publisher of original content, and not a gimmick of the month club. If this book makes it out of the first year, which is always questionable given the New 52’s rate of attrition, then perhaps we can reassess the impact of those characters once they’ve had a chance to settle.

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