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Archive for October, 2014

Review – Gotham Academy # 1 (2014)

tumblr_na5k4hdzaH1s5gizzo1_1280To begin this review, I must admit that I wasn’t originally going to read this title. I felt like my perception of the title was unfairly skewed by internal biases. I didn’t want to invest in another Bat-title, regardless of whether Batman was a central character or not. I also didn’t really cotton to the premise. It felt like Morning Glories in Gotham on paper. But I changed my mind on the book simply by virtue of the fact that I trust Becky Cloonan. I also really like Karl Kerschl’s artwork, but I’ve ignored books by artists I love before. Essentially, I put my faith in a writer I trust  to make magic with the premise. I’m glad I gave the book the chance, because it is truly something special.

I really haven’t found myself as enthralled in a Gotham title not featuring Batman since All Star Western launched back in 2011. With that title going away, this feels like a worthy replacement in my off-the-wall Gotham reading slot. Titles that play with the periphery of Batman’s world can be a hit or miss affair, but talented writers and artists can really make all the difference in the world.

Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher give us a truly wonderful book unlike anything else DC is publishing at the moment. Focusing on a handful of new characters, primarily on two young teenage girls, the book has the distinction of being one of the most diverse books on the market. In a world where the marketplace is expanding and the demand for characters who are anything but boring white males, a book featuring characters like Olive Silverlock and “Maps” Mizoguchi is a refreshing change of pace.

It is also appreciated that while Cloonan and Fletcher do establish that there is certainly mystery afoot, and the story arc they’ll be unspooling is certainly going to be interesting, the first issue is mainly focused on letting us get to know our protagonists as characters and really flesh them out. The reader is treated to a slow burn of a character study on these two young girls, letting us really get a feel for their personalities so that by the time we understand that things are truly not as they seem at Gotham Academy, we like these characters enough and are invested in them in such a way that the narrative carries a substantive amount of weight. Much like the family drama that drove the majority of Ms. Marvel earlier this year, Olive’s personal troubles and Maps’ enthusiasm for her life at a new school give us a lens through which we can view the stories that Cloonan and Fletcher want to tell.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I feel like those willing to overlook their own hesitance to try the book, like myself, will find something to enjoy here. Truly a spectacular debut issue and quite possibly my favorite new DC launch in years.

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Review – Thor #1 (2014)

FemaleThor

Allow me to be blunt. This is a comic book where on the second page the words “Activating Attack Sharks” is uttered with not a single hint of irony. Yes, in this issue of Thor, a deep ocean sea-lab run by the Roxxon corporation features a defense system consisting of what appear to be technologically enhanced super-sharks, who eventually engage in underwater combat with an army of invading Frost Giants from Jotunheim.

So, in short, it’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to a Thor comic.

The big hullabaloo about this issue has been that the fellow we have come to know and love as Thor is no longer going to be the titular character of the series. In the wake of the crossover event Original Sin, He is unworthy to wield mighty Mjolnir, the hammer that serves as the symbol of his power. Fans fearing that Thor would simply be discarded to make way for a new character will be relieved however, as this first issue in a new series spends a good majority of its time with Thor Classic.

New Thor does not show her face until the final page of the issue. In many ways, the storytelling structure of this issue of Thor is the polar opposite of something like Ms. Marvel # 1. While that issue and series has been a huge success for Marvel, the baseline of the narrative utilized by writer G. Willow Wilson would not suit the type of story that Jason Aaron is attempting to tell here. By the time the first issue of Ms. Marvel came around, the namesake had been vacant for a while as Carol Danvers had transitioned into being Captain Marvel for a bit by that point. The story was able to focus on Kamala Khan taking up the mantle and the circumstances that surrounded her beginning the hero’s journey. With Thor, Aaron seems to be setting up a dual track that will focus on the way that Thor Classic deals with his fall as much as the exploits of whoever it is that takes up the hammer now.

So, does the issue work?

I would say that overall it is a very interesting Thor book. However, I will also admit that I have no connection to the new “Thor” because no attempt has been made to make her anything more than a mystery at this point. At the end of the first issue in this series, ostensibly her series, she is no more fleshed out than she was before the series hit stands. There is no change in my view of her as a concept. As a debut issue in that regard, the book falls short. The book should have given me a reason to stay on board. It should have made a connection between the reader and our new protagonist. If the series is to succeed based on the merit of this new character, shouldn’t we get some inkling of who this new character is as a person? If this book is supposed to center around her, and we are to accept her as our new Thor, making her a side element in the first issue of her own series is not the boldest move to take. Perhaps taking the time to do more setup in the previous volume or even giving the issue the double-sized treatment might have solved some of these problems.

The book is worth a read if you’re a Thor fan. If you were hoping to find something akin to Ms. Marvel, with a fleshed out new female character that sticks the landing on its first issue, this might not be your best bet. For that reason I’m grading it on two separate scales. For longtime Thor fans, this is a solid 8/10. It plays with the lore, we get familiar faces and the best elements of a Thor book are there. For Marvel fans looking to jump on board, it falls closer to a 5/10. The artwork and writing are excellent but the enjoyment you get out of it is qualified by how intrigued you are by Thor and his mythos.

Here’s to hoping issue number two makes significant strides with regards to setting up the titular character.