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 (24 July 2013) we take a closer look at Joe Casey’s The Bounce (Image Comics), watch Greg Rucka’s world of Lazarus #2 (Image Comics) open up, continue Superior Spider-Month with (deep breath) Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1 (Marvel), join 20,000 people in a field for Tomorrowland #1 (Titan Comics) and ask What If? AvX (Marvel) was any good. This is Graphic Bits.
Three issues into Joe Casey’s “other” contemporary take on the superhero genre, kind of a long-lost sister act with Sex, and Jasper’s motivations and origins are starting to unfold. The sexuality of costume, gender and identity are discussed somewhat heavy-handedly as Jasper discovers his roommate’s cross-dressing proclivities, who likewise springs Japser in the super act. If Sex is about attempting to fill in the holes left by a life of costumed crime-fighting, then this is about what motivates those urges in the first place. As such, the more interesting sections are those in flashback, showing us not only how Jasper got his powers, but tying them to the recent spate of costumed freaks and geeks turning up across the city. Just as Jasper struggles to find his own place and identity, so too does The Bounce, although this third issue finds the narrative slipping into a solid groove. Not going into any parallel worlds this issue, Messina’s art is more low-key, his talent being in crafting a realistic and lived-in world that feels tangible and a little bit dirty around the edges. Interestingly, as the superhero elements become more traditional towards the end of the issue, so too does Messina’s art. A book where we can honestly say that we don’t know what will happen next, and feel compelled to stick around and find out.
While the premise behind the first issue of Greg Rucka’s newest series was a curious one, it struggled somewhat to overcome a sense of the familiar and consummate cool that kept the audience at arm’s length for most of the issue. This second offering begins to open up Rucka’s world a little more, showing us the true disparity between rich and poor and the stakes at play in the wars between the “families” that tightly control the world’s resources. The genetically engineered Carlyle family enforcer, Forever, might be doubting her place in the world, but it doesn’t sway her loyalty to her family’s patriarch. Rucka skilfully guides us through this brave new world while slowly dropping in hints as to the true nature of Forever’s origins and the disdain with which her “siblings” treat her. It occasionally dips into soap opera territory, but the book is gradually carving out its own piece of the pie in the process. Once again, Michael Lark is one of the main reason to pick up this book. Despite the sci-fi leanings and the dystopian setting, it’s as if Lark has taken up a pencil and merely recorded the reality he sees in front of him. Coupled with the earthy colours of Santi Arcas, Lazarus is a cinematic event presented as sequential art.
The Superior Spider-Brand gets a little larger as Otto Octavius punches his way through the Marvel Universe, and does it better than any Spider-man before him. While many could rightfully still be patiently waiting for the return of Peter Parker, Marvel is making no secret of its desire to milk this development as far as it can go, launching a Superior Spider Month to continue the illusion. Taking the place of Avenging Spider-man, the previous team-up book, Parker has been put on probation by the rest of the Avengers. Octavius has paid little attention to this, and continues to act erratically to fellow heroes and villains alike. It’s a real hoot watching Spider-man sucker punch half of the heroes he encounters, for reasons that are revealed later in the issue. Perhaps the biggest gripe with this issue is that while it is a capable story, it does little to identify a need for it to exist as a separate title. This may be an expansion of the Superior Spider-man brand, but Yost’s romp would have made the main title all the more compelling. The art team get to have an incredible amount of fun pitching Spider-man against a range of characters, keeping it light enough to be a less serious version of the Punisher/Deadpool attempts at killing the Marvel universe. As a spiritual successor to Marvel Team-Up, it’s more of a “Spider-man Versus The Marvel Universe”, but there’s loads of potential fun to be had here.
As Jarvis Cocker once asked, “Is this the way they say the future’s meant to feel/Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?” Taking its name from the real Belgian (and now international) music festival of the same name, and not the Disney theme park section, it casts actual DJs and brothers Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike as heroes in their own fantasy adventure. Waking up in another hotel on the eve of Tomorrowland, the brothers witness a strange event in the sky that they both write-off as a dream. However, when the festival begins, a rift in space-time opens, unleashing all manner of fantasic creatures both light and dark (not to mention historical figures like Einstein and Mozart) on the world – and it seems only their music can hold them in check. Jenkins works hard to make the characters genuine, but stumbles a bit around the sometimes clumsy “youth language” that reads as something less than real. However, the brothers make unlikely heroes, and the whole thing is a throwback to the 1980s when any celebrity not matter how minor was given their own promo comic or cartoon series. The artwork mirrors this attitude, with a very functional approach filled with talking heads and character close-ups. The bright and trippy colours from the folks at Stellar Labs are appropriate to a crowd sorted for E’s and wizz. Ostensibly a new comic series is more of a cross-promotion for the music festival, and perhaps this is where the target market is going to be. Best read with a thumping beat and a red party cup full of vodka and Red Bull, time will tell if this evolves into a modern dance-centric fantasy tale.
What if Avengers Vs X-Men had been good? It’s a question we all pondered during last year’s painfully drawn out prologue to another saga, and the chance to revisit it initially seemed unappealing. It’s still not much of a necessity, but Palmiotti’s story of a group of X-Men and Avengers attempting to work together to stop the Phoenix and a common threat makes far more sense than the original punch-up. Magneto’s contempt for humanity is much stronger than the original story, but so is the heroic nature of both the Avengers and the X-Men. At a third of the size of the original series, it’s a much tighter story too, barreling along at a rapid pace. With the Phoenix Force now inhabiting Hope, there’s a genuine sense that everybody is on the chopping block, because this is being told completely outside of canon. Sandoval replaces Jorge Molina on art duties this time out, and it gives a very different vibe to the book. Sandoval appears to come from a style that is closer to manga and animation than traditional mainstream comics, and this has mixed results. Magneto, for example, looks about twenty years younger than he should, and Hope’s impossibly small waist supports some rather unrealistic proportions. Yet the stylised nature of it aids the sense that this is not the Marvel we know, and at the very least offers us something different. With Infinity seemingly set to open up the Marvel Multiverse, perhaps this series is a taste of the multiple-choice endings that Marvel will be offering in the near future. Unlike the original series, we are genuinely curious about what happens in the final chapter, even if it means diddly squat.
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