Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Weekly Comic Reviews – 8/14/2013

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse CusterIt’s been a hell of a week. Busy is the word I would use to describe it. But no in the “I have things to do” sort of way, more in the “why are so many things happening to me” sort of way. You know, viral infections, dead car battery, relationship drama; the usual. I haven’t had much time to blog it up, but thankfully things have quieted down enough that I can slip in and do some reviews. Not many, because there wasn’t a whole lot that I was interested in diving into this week just from a casual glance. As I climb deeper into the rabbit hole of reading weekly books on the regular, I’m sure the number of reviews that pile up each week will expand. That said, what I did read carried some heft, so we’ll dive right in and get right to it.

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BATGIRL # 23
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Fernando Pasarin, Jonathan Glapion
Cover Artist: Alex Garner
Price: 2.99
On Sale Date: Aug 14 2013

The new “Batgirl: Wanted” epic begins here, as Commissioner Gordon must track down his son’s murderer—who happens to be his daughter! But has Barbara already given up the Bat?

I stepped away from Batgirl when Gail Simone was ceremoniously booted from the title a short while back. When she reentered the fray I neglected to jump back on board but the storyline here intrigued me enough to pick up last month’s issue as a refresher and threw this one on the stack as well. For those not in the know, Batgirl is on the hook for the death of her brother and that isn’t sitting all too well with their respective father, Commissioner Gordon. Barbara is going through much in her life at this point. She’s beginning to date a reformed criminal who can’t seem to escape his past and trying to reconcile what happened with her brother at the same time. She’s a big ball of emotions and her father is looming over her in more ways than one, needling her about staying safe and afraid of losing another child as well as chasing Batgirl down in a way that even Batman remarks is dangerously close to a vengeful tirade. The rooftop scene between Batman and the Commissioner is excellently written and gives the reader a good idea of what we can expect in terms of character beats from Jim Gordon.

That is really what drives this book and makes it such an interesting work; the character beats. Barbara is heavily conflicted here, and conflict makes for compelling reading. Barbara Gordon, at least as Batgirl, has never come across as a character who really elicits much of a response from me because she reads as cut-and-dry in most respects. I only really started to get a feel for her as a fleshed out human being when she became Oracle. We got to witness her deal with so many different types of adversities while she was in that chair in the clock-tower. Gail Simone has taken that development on the character and given us a new lens to look at Barbara. She feels full. She appears realized. She makes mistakes and deals with the consequences.

All in all, my first reaction is that I should go back and pick up what I missed to fill in the gaps, because I am enjoying what I’m reading. There are a few downsides, mostly having to do with some predictability regarding Barbara’s love interest that are far too telegraphed to be enjoyed fully on my end, but I imagine the narrative beats that will result from certain decisions will translate into some payoff in regard to Barbara’s development later down the line. At least I hope so.

Rating 3 and 1/2 out of 5
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INFINITY (2013) #1
Published: August 14, 2013
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Cover Artist: Adam Kubert
Price: $4.99
On Sale Date: Aug 14 2013

The oversized kickoff to the year’s most anticipate Blockbuster summer event, chaning the way you view the Marvel Universe! • The outbreak of war on two fronts: Earth and Space, with our heroes torn between them. • The world-shattering return of Thanos! • Includes material from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: INFINITY

If you have been reading Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Avengers you may have figured out that his handling of the team is pretty much the anti-Bendis in terms of plot progression, storytelling, and theme. Hickman’s take on the book has been much like Morrison’s deconstruction of the X-Men years back. It is as different from what preceded it as you can get and yet never feels like it isn’t true to what the book should be about. Jonathan Hickman writes the Avengers as a hard intellectual sci-fi yarn, recalling elements from classic Avengers lore like the Kree-Skrull war and Infinity Gauntlet while infusing it with his very distinct creative voice. There is never a time where you are not aware that you are reading a Jonathan Hickman story. Much as Bendis has come to be associated with abundant panels and fast, snappy dialog, the elevated science fiction overtones along with deliberate pacing and neo-modern graphic design stylings clearly indicate a Hickman joint.

Those familiar with his work on the main Avengers title and therefore comfortable with his style and pacing will find Infinity to be a strong book. He takes his time and gives us freedom to enjoy the world-building that he puts on display. We are introduced to an abundance of alien races and evil machinations. We only see the Avengers on panel for perhaps 1/4 of the book’s length. Front and center instead are the actions of our antagonists, razing worlds and infiltrating the highest order of the Inhuman’s stronghold of Attilan in a meticulously plotted cerebral espionage sequence. What I am trying to say is that people who are looking for the whiz-bang pacing of a Secret Invasion, World War Hulk, etc. may find themselves disappointed at the way the first issue plays out. I personally enjoyed it and I will do my best to explain why without sounding like a total idiot.

The first issue played out, for the most part, like an episode of a TV show. The story beats are concise and structured for maximum effect, but it is the final pages of the book, where we see our heroes putting a plan into action and a final page cliffhanger that could easily have been followed with a meme image of Michael from Arrested Development saying “I Have Made A Huge Mistake” where things really clicked for me. You see, those last few pages didn’t feel like part of the narrative of this issue so much as a quick flash of what’s to come, similar to a “Next Week on MARVEL” montage at the end of a TV show. The pacing and the implications make for effective drama, and while Infinity # 1 is definitely a slow burn, it is also very much indicative of a quality mini-series that seeks to tell its story in a very deliberate way.

Simply put, Hickman delivers a standout first issue that couldn’t be further from what I have come to expect from a Marvel event series while at the same time giving me everything I want from a Marvel event series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

COLLID_Cv1_PRINT_3pncuy4wjo_COLLIDER (AKA FBP: FEDERAL BUREAU OF PHYSICS) # 1
Written by:  Simon Oliver
Art by:  Robbi Rodriguez
Cover by: Nathan Fox
U.S. Price: 2.99
On Sale Date: Jul 31 2013

It started small: temporary gravity failures, time reversal loops, entropy reversals. With much fanfare a new government agency was formed with a mandate “to prevent and protect.” Its official title: The Federal Bureau of Physics. Humans, if nothing else, adapt to the changing parameters of their existence. What was extraordinary soon became ordinary, a part of people’s daily lives. They move on and do what people have always done: survive. But even that new status quo is now under threat. Things are getting worse, and it falls to Special Agent Adam Hardy and his FBP team to figure out what’s going on, before it’s too late… 

I know I’m late to the party on this one but following all the hubbub surrounding the abrupt title change (Beginning with issue 2, Collider will be renamed to FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics) I decided to throw this one on the reading pile and give it a go. Writer Simon Oliver has done work previously for Vertigo on Hellblazer and The Exterminators and while I may have read his work before I cannot remember if I formulated an opinion so I am going into this 100% blind.

Collider feels like a Vertigo book. It takes a premise and runs with it. There is mystery and the promise of expanded world building and solid character work along the way with artwork that, were it on a mainstream book, would be decried for not fitting the mold. As it stands, it is a fine book. The premise, that the foundation of universally accepted laws of physics are starting to crumble and the fallout surrounding that hornet’s nest, is one worth delving into. It hooks you and keeps you there until the end. I’ve read comments about the book being boring but I had no such qualm with the book. But then again, I enjoyed Sweet Tooth and that book was admittedly a chore to get through sometimes.

For regular devotees of Vertigo content, this will not disappoint. For those who fall more squarely in line with the mainstream, I’m not so sure you’ll enjoy this one. It has all of the hallmarks that most people mock “indy” comics for; strange yet alluring artwork, strange premise, heightened dialog… you get the idea.

I don’t want to write much about it because I feel people will enjoy it more if they just go in blind. It’s sometimes the best way to enjoy a work of art and I’ll wager that this is the sort of book that benefits heavily from a clean frame of mind. It certainly helped when I read it, as I had zero knowledge of the title when I turned the cover. Whatever you do, just don’t dismiss it outright. Give it a chance.

Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5

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One response

  1. Pingback: Hickman plots a new course for Marvel event series in ‘Infinity’ #1 | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

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