2
Jun
2011
Chris' Comics Corner
Chris' Comics Corner
Chris
So is anything going on in comics news this week?

Ahahaha just kidding.

Seriously though, we'll dive into the DC plans in greater detail once more concrete announcements are made.

For now, let's focus on the here and now, and here and now was a great week for comics!

Fear Itself #3
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Stuart Immonen

"Our CAPITAL, Sharon. Going out for some air. Might be a while..."

After a slightly weak second issue, things kick into high gear with the latest installment of Matt Fraction's summer epic.

The thrills start with Bucky Cap leading some of the Avengers into battle against Sin and her forces in D.C. and the action doesn't let up as the Avengers and the Future Foundation confront the other members of the Worthy who are wreaking havoc around the world. Fraction does an excellent job of raising the stakes in this issue, as the assembled heroes of the Marvel Universe are stretched thin facing threats that were quite formidable before they were bequeathed power bestowing hammers of Asgardian origin. Not to mention the fact that Asgard is gearing up to wipe out humanity to deprive the Serpent of the fear on which he thrives.

The real strength of this issue comes during the scenes where Thor is interacting with his Asgardian brethren. Loki continues to make the most of his second chance after being resurrected as a child, reaching out to his brother and doing whatever he can to aid Thor and make him proud. Thor's showdown with Odin is nowhere near as explosive as their confrontation in the first issue, however it is equally fascinating, and further demonstrates the complexity inherent in their relationship.

My only complaint is that the series has been so action heavy in the last two issues, we haven't had time to examine the emotional tole that all this destruction is having on the Marvel Universe and the assembled heroes. Given that two of the Worthy are members of the heroic community, there is a goldmine of emotional character driven moments to be explored that have so far been relegated to the tie in issues. Fraction did such a great job of capturing the mood of anxiety in the first issue, and is such a master at crafting a variety of character's voices, that it would be a great shame if he did not take the chance to explore what his protagonists are feeling as they face unstoppable odds, watch comrades fall, and see two friends turned into mindless engines of destruction.

Stuart Immonen must be having a blast on this series, as he gets to smash all the toys together in a variety of exotic locations across the Marvel Universe. The fight scenes are brutal. I mean really brutal, which is especially important in a series where the antagonists are all juggernauts of destruction (one of them is in fact the juggernaut). Immonen's take on Bucky Cap, Black Widow, and Falcon are especially iconic, and the shocking ending scene is especially well choreographed, to really tug at the heart strings.

This issue ends on a major cliffhanger, and if all is as it seems, the events of this issue will have major ramifications for the entire Marvel Universe going forward. I'm used to comic fake outs so I'm not ready to call this like I see it. All I'll say is that if this was the end for one of the protagonists, then it was a fittingly heroic one, especially in light of said protagonist's speech to rally their comrades. After a minor hiccup of a second issue, this blockbuster is back on track.

Grade: A-



Flashpoint #2
Publisher: DC
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Andy Kubert

"You weren't fast enough to avoid that you delusional son-of-a-bitch."

Now this is more like it. After a first issue which felt like a lot of exposition (interesting exposition, but still). This issue really draws readers into the world of Flashpoint, showing us just how different and bleak things are in this altered timeline.

The issue begins with a very creepy scene in which Deathstroke and his band of pirates make the mistake of sailing too far into Aquaman occupied territory. The fury of the sea king can only be matched by that of Wonder Woman and her furies as she stalks Special Agent Steve Trevor across the ruins of London. This is the introduction I wanted to see in the first issue, and had we gotten a taste of just how merciless and powerful these two are in this world right at the get go, I believe the scene from the first issue where Cyborg was assembling the heroes of the Flashpoint universe would have been much, much more effective.

The rest of the issue is devoted to Barry Allen trying to convince Batman that the world is not as it should be, a task that becomes much easier when Barry reveals a key detail about how the world was that immediately brings this Batman onboard with the cause of restoring Barry's powers and righting history. While there is still no sign of the Flash, Barry is much more interesting to watch this time around, as he forms a plan to deal with his situation, one that includes a substantial risk of personal injury.

A lot of this issue takes place in the Batcave, but Andy Kubert is able to make these scenes engaging and dynamic. The opening visuals of the issue are truly creepy, and Kubert maintains a palpable level of suspense for the entire first segment. The debut of Aquaman and Wonder Woman are rendered with the gravitas needed to sell the power and danger that these two represent to the characters they interact with and to the world at large. Finally the last few pages are masterfully choreographed and again, steeped in suspense. I would especially make note at the emotion that Kubert endows Batman with through posture given that we cannot see his expression for most of this sequence.

Given the information that is starting to leak out regarding DC's plans for the future, this series may indeed be remembered as one of the most important comics of the decade given its role in reshaping the continuity of the DC universe. It is quite possible that it will come to be spoken of in similar breaths as Crisis on Infinite Earths if the ramifications are as far reaching and dramatic as they appear to be. However given all the hype about what is about to come, take the time to enjoy this series for what it truly is. A return to form for Geoff Johns, and some of the best work Andy Kubert has done in recent years.

Grade: A-


Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #1
Publisher: Marvel Icon
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips

"It's good being back in the old times."

SPOILERS

The wait time between each new volume of Criminal seems like an eternity. The reason for this, is that the book is just so damn good, that it is almost frustrating to finish each issue, knowing that once the current volume is done, the inevitable, painful wait for the next volume will begin.

One issue in, and I do believe that this may just be the best installment of Criminal to date. The story is full of references sure to catch the eye of long time Criminal readers, and long time comics fans to boot. Set in 1982, this volume tales the story of Riley Richards returning home to see his ailing father. Riley has his own troubles back int the city without a name, but for now he is consumed by the past and thoughts of how his life turned out the way it did.

This is an intensely personal story for Brubaker, as he tells the reader in the afterward that this story was in a way inspired by the passing of his own father. And it shows in the level of craftsmanship that Brubaker pours into the structure, dialogue, and tone of the issue. The story is universally relatable as the main character wrestles with loss, nostalgia, and questions of what might have been.

Sean Phillips is in fine form as always, but what will have most people talking about this issue is the Archie-esque flashback sequences to Riley's childhood. The visuals are so clean and innocent, evoking that style so perfectly and bring about a yearning for a simpler time. The content of these scenes however is something very different, sometimes detailing slices of Americana, sometimes detailing content that is quite adult. Its about as Archie as Criminal could ever be, and the scenes are very powerful because of the contrast between style and content, all the while reminding us that maybe the past is never quite as perfect as we might imagine it.

The issue ends on a shocking cliffhanger that will hit you like a punch to the gut. For those of you who are turned off by the tights and capes set of the comics world, and even those of you who love super hero comics, I highly advise you, check out this book. It is a must read for fans of mature, gritty noir, and is a masterpiece of storytelling in this medium.

Grade: A+

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