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CSBG Archive

She Has No Head! – Picks of the Week (1/22/14)

There were so many good books last week, guys!

Seriously, I did not even make it through my whole reading stack, and still I had too much trouble trying to pick just one to write about for this week’s column. So instead we’re going to do a tiny bit on several, including some gorgeous images. One of these books is actually NOT a pick, but I wanted to talk a little bit about why it skates so close to being a pick and then 2 panels at the end completely ruined the whole book for me. Very disappointed.

So let’s get to those books!

Batman 27 Bats and Gordon

Gorgeous work by Greg Capullo on Batman #27

Deadly Class 1 CoverDEADLY CLASS #1

Rick Remender, Wes Craig, Lee Loughridge, and Rus Wooten. Cover by Wes Craig. Image.

A really strong and beautiful start for Remender and Craig’s Deadly Class! High-concept and a little bit weird, it feels definitively like a passion project in that it’s unconventional and well, passionate as all get out. A great introductory set up to our lead protagonist (as well as our other leads) and the general concept and it takes the building blocks of something X-Men-ish and turns it nicely on its ear in a fun new way. Wes Craig is bringing an incredibly stylish and focused vision to the book while Lee Loughridge’s colors are simply divine. My favorite page (of many) in this first issue:

Deadly Class 1 page

Hawkeye 16 CoverHAWKEYE #16

Matt Fraction, Annie Wu, Matt Hollingsworth, and Chris Eliopoulos. Cover by David Aja. Marvel.

And with Hawkeye #16, Kate Bishop continues her epic and not at all stealthy climb up my list of favorite comic book characters. She’s simply magnificent. There was a ton of badass action in Hawkeye #16, but it was this page below that made me swoon. Fraction and Wu brought in a beautiful issue all around and there’s no doubt that Kate can anchor her own title with ease. Her adventures here are one part superhero and one part Nancy Drew and there’s no end to their fun. Kudos to Wu, because David Aja is an incredibly tough act to follow, but Wu does it well. Hollingsworth continues to kill on colors. But in the end, it’s all about the character. Ah, Kate, be mine!

Hawkeye 16 panels

Black Widow 2 CoverBLACK WIDOW #2

Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto, and Clayton Cowles. Cover by Phil Noto. Marvel.

Second issue and we are CRUISING. Another beautiful, standalone stunner. Another job for Natasha and thus more complexities and grey area, and thus more wonderful character work. I like that Black Widow’s first two issues feel complete unto themselves and can stand so gorgeously on their own, but I confess I want a bit more feeling for where we’re headed. Something larger. Still, I’d be a fool to complain. Smart crisp writing, fine nuanced character work, and out of this world visuals, the kind Natasha has always deserved, by Noto. I hope this book as got staying power, because it’s off to a hell of a strong start.

BW 2 Panels

Pretty Deadly 4 CoverPRETTY DEADLY #4

Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles. Cover by Emma Rios. Image.

So weird and beautiful. DeConnick is certainly not afraid to push on boundaries with Pretty Deadly. She and Rios play with storytelling and you can tell they’re doing exactly what they want to at every moment. The book is weird. Beautifully weird. There are moments when I catch myself wanting thinking that I want it to be more traditional or easier to follow, but why? So many books are exactly that, we have plenty of that. Better that Pretty Deadly cuts loose and lets its freak flag fly. I have no idea where DeConnick and Rios are going and maybe that’s best. It’s been a while since a comic book REALLY surprised me. I’d bet Pretty Deadly is gonna be the one to do it. Oh, and can we talk about Jordie Bellaire’s incredibly evocative color work on this book? The page below is gorgeously illustrated all around, but I picked it for Bellaire’s colors. Absolutely stunning:

Pretty Deadly 4 page

Umbral 3 CoverUMBRAL #3

Antony Johnston, Christopher Mitten, Jordan Boyd, and Thomas Mauer. Cover by Christopher Mitten. Image.

Umbral continues to be super fun with a really strong voice. You all should jump on board now, it’s still early! High fantasy but with a slick modern voice and a hell of a YA Protagonist in Rascal, Johnston and Mitten are doing lovely things with Umbral. The art (and colors) have a grittiness that gives it a texture and the impression of layers that are missing from so many books these days. My favorite element however, has got to be how Johnston has chosen to realize the magical language in Umbral, which you can see in the panel below. Absolutely awesome:

Umbral 3 page

Batman 27 CoverBATMAN #27

Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, Plascensia, and Steve Wands. Cover by Greg Capullo and Plascensia. DC.

Many of you know I’m a Scott Snyder superfan. I think he’s an exceptional writer and a fantastic fit for Batman. In Synder’s capable hands, Batman has remained one of the few books I’ve had no problem sticking with in the New 52.  He’s got a dark sensibility and a flair for horror that makes him the ideal writer for Batman – probably at any point in time, but certainly the overly dark and gritty “New 52.” I like that he doesn’t give up on humor and hope entirely though. There’s always Alfred to lighten things up with a joke:

Batman 27 Bat Suit

Greg Capullo is pretty much killing this book. I think when Capullo was first announced as the Batman artist I was skeptical. There were things about his style that I thought would work well, and others I was concerned about. But he has really pushed himself as an artist and storyteller with Batman. This page perhaps isn’t the best example of the storytelling aspect as it’s largely “splash” but it’s gorgeous nonetheless:

Batman 27 page

And our miss this week, but SO CLOSE to being good – SPOILER ALERT on this one:

All New X-Men CoverALL-NEW X-MEN #22.NOW

Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, Marte Garcia, and Cory Petit. Cover by Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Marte Garcia. Marvel.

So this issue, with stunning visuals by Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Marte Garcia is a really unfortunate case, because it’s great fun and action-packed.  Tasked with being both new reader friendly (despite being issue #22) and rolling the Guardians of the Galaxy into the tale at the end. But Bendis handles it all with surprising ease. It doesn’t even feel forced, which is impressive. The book is filled with nice simple character work:

Beast Panel

Iceman Panel

And a lot of humorous writing that shows off the relationships and chemistry of the characters:

Silver Boobs

Unfortunately, on the second to last page, two panels (see below) yanked me right out of the book and cast a pall over the whole damn thing.

I’m not going to get super into it, but you can read my CBR Review here if you’re curious for the longer take. The short version is, as a reader it’s impossible for me to believe that Kitty Pryde doesn’t almost immediately understand WHY the Shi’ar would take Jean. It’s convenient writing that ignores character – both because it undermines Kitty as a character, making her less intelligent than she is/should be and it ignores what she should obviously know given her position and experiences.

All-New X-Men 2 Panels can ruin a book

Changing Kitty’s lines in these panels from “Why would they take Jean and leave us?”

To something more like: “What are they doing here? Why would the Shi’ar…oh my god. No.”

Changes everything and makes the book a huge success. Instead, it shattered my suspension of disbelief, something that is already a very delicate balance. In the end it’s still a beautiful book that succeeds on many levels, but it’s a shame that a simple line change (one that makes the book better in my opinion anyway) wasn’t made that can save the whole book.

***

So, those books were the best of my pull last week – and one that just missed the mark – what were your top books for the week?

Also, don’t forget that we’re headed into Week 2 of the Kickstarter for my novel STORYKILLER. We funded in under 72 hours, but we’ve got three weeks left, so check it out if you’re into crowdfunding stuff. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

Never thought I’d read a comic book about Brian Wilson and “Smile”, and I certainly never thought that comic book would be Hawkguy. But damn, did I enjoy that comic.

I haven’t regularly read new comics in a while, so please forgive me if this has been cleared up but….why WOULD the Shiar take Jean? Why would she stand trial for the crimes of Phoenix?

Hasn’t it been established that the original Phoenix wasn’t Jean Grey? That Jean was stored in an underwater cocoon while the Phoenix took her place and ended up dying later on? Then the Phoenix returned to earth and tried to merge with Jean in the coccon, only to have Jean reject her. Then the Phoenix force fled for the next best thing, which was Maddie Pryor, who was at the time a clone in a cataconic state.

So if Jean was never the Phoenix, why are people now behaving as if she was? Why would the Shiar want to hold Jean Grey to trial for something an imposter did?

Furthermore, isn’t it ridiculous to hold someone for trial that their FUTURE self did IN THE PAST? Think about it. The story premise is dumb on so many levels.

@Michael P: Amazing issue, seriously.

@T.: Even assuming everything you said is correct (and at this point, I have no idea if what IS and what isn’t correct) it still shouldn’t be a surprise to Kitty that it’s happening. Kitty can absolutely make an argument as to why the Shi’ar’s choice makes no sense (for any of the reasons you listed – perhaps even more) but she still shouldn’t be dumbfounded as to why it’s happening. It’s absolutely clear WHY it’s happening, whether it’s right or wrong, or even makes a ton of sense is another matter. Right?

Even with all that stuff, T, the Shi’ar went so far as to murder Jean’s whole family several years ago, so kidnapping Teen Jean is pretty much within their established behavior pattern.
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So, the answer to yours and Kitty’s questions is, basically, “Because they’re dicks.”

Even assuming everything you said is correct (and at this point, I have no idea if what IS and what isn’t correct) it still shouldn’t be a surprise to Kitty that it’s happening

Kelly, I wasn’t criticizing the validity of your question. I’m criticizing the whole idea of a trial for Jean at all.

I think that one of the worst things a reviewer can do is dictate changes in the work he reviews. It shows an inability to take the work on it’s own terms, that the reviewer comes to it with an expectation to be fulfilled and a lack of openness to what the work otherwise offers. It doesn’t really matter if the suggestions made are valid or not because in the end the review rarely turns into a useful lesson and show that the one producing it is talking about a comic (book, film, video game, whatever) he or she imagines, rather than the one holding in his or hers hands.

@T.: Gotcha. And criticizing my take/opinion would also have been fine; just trying to better explain myself since I kind of just hit the basics in my post.

@Alin: That may be the silliest comment I have ever read.

Isn’t it Shiar policy to eliminate all members of the Grey family everywhere? That’s why they killed all of Jean’s family way back when and tried to kill Rachel. I didn’t read any of the miniseries about Vulcan and Havok, Polaris, & Rachel’s adventures in space so I’m not 100% sure if they ever actually backed off of this policy.

T has a great point, but yes – Greg – considering one of Kitty’s best friends (Rachel) had well over a dozen of her ‘Grey’ relatives slaughtered by the Shi’ar Death Commandos in Uncanny #467 just in case any of them were suitable hosts for the Phoenix, K should probably have been able to put two and two together.

Got to admit, I’m digging Snyders work on Batman. It’s great because it isn’t a take that’s beholden to Miller. It’s fresh, it’s a different point of view, and it’s hugely entertaining.

Greg Capilio remains absolutely a master. He understands Batman works best on a more “cartoony” level.

The fact that these two strong independent creators are basically showing how much DC should just abandon this 52 lockstep, and just let creators create.

I hate Snyder’s work because his take on Batman is the culmination of everything I hate about the character. He pushes the boundary of what I call “Bat-Saw-Slash,” which seems to be the preferred way to do Batman these days. “Bat-Saw-Slash” is Batman, usually variation of Miller’s take, meets the Saw franchise (graphic, disgusting, stomach churning, serial killer splatter) meets Slashfiction (fan fiction with lots of homoerotic themes and overtones/undertones, biggest example being this weird symbiosis that modern Batman now has with modern Joker. Snyder really ramped this up with his Joker stories, where the WHOLE point of Joker’s crime spree is some deranged courtship of Batman).

But Bat-Saw-Slash seems to be make a lot of money. Nolan’s Dark Knight was pure Bat-Saw-Slash and it killed in the box office. So what do I know?

I shouldn’t have said “everything I hate about the character,” because I like the character. I mean everything I hate about the MODERN take on the character.

“It doesn’t really matter if the suggestions made are valid or not because in the end the review rarely turns into a useful lesson and show that the one producing it is talking about a comic (book, film, video game, whatever) he or she imagines, rather than the one holding in his or hers hands.”

Paging Mr. Kettle… Paging Mr. Kettle… you have a phone call here, somebody named Pot, should I take a message or do you want to take it?

Re: All-New X-Men #22 – Bendis’ blantant disregard for continuity (along with decompressed storytelling and anti-climatic endings) is the main reason why I dropped the title. I’m not one to nitpick over minor retcons/changes (some of them are necessary and refreshing for the characters) but Kitty not knowing why Shi’ar would kidnap Jean is a mistake that’s hard to gloss over. The Dark Phoenix Saga is integral to the X-Men mythos. Bendis needs to know when to pay reverence to history and when to make changes. This just feels like a slap in the face to the fans. And this is not the first time it’s happened either.

Over at bleeding cool they also pointed out that Kitty picked up the idiot ball.

But I would say that since the Shi’ar sent the son of one of the Imperial Guard to the Jean Grey School, Kitty could reasonably be thinking, in her genius logical way, that the Shi’ar were maybe over it, and that it makes NO SENSE to take young Jean.

But yeah, I can totally see that it’s jarring that she wouldn’t think of why they took her right away, and your suggested line change would express her shock but also show she’d realize what was going on right away.

Of course, as Chad is showing us in his posts, Bendis seems to like to take down the geniuses of the MU and show they’re myopic in their thinking.

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