Single Combat 7/6/10

Posted on July 6, 2010. Filed under: Reviews |

By Erik Lewis, Lead Blogger

Another Tuesday, and with tomorrow seeing the release of new books, it’s time for another installment of Single Combat, where we here at By Odin’s Beard review the releases from last week.  As always, I pick up my comics at Comics and Paperbacks Plus in Palmyra, PA.  You can find them on Facebook here or here, or you can stop in if you find yourself in Central Pennsylvania. You can also follow me on Twitter, just to see what I think of my books as I read them!  Here’s what I got:

Invincible Iron Man Annual #1
Captain America #607
Doomwar #5
Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1
Secret Avengers #2
Marvel Zombies 5 #4
Gotham City Sirens #13
Clayface #1
Atomic Robo #4
Justice Society of America #40
Green Lantern #55
Thor #611
Justice League of America #46
The Flash #3

And here’s what I thought:

Secret Avengers #2

Marvel Comics, $3.99

Ed Brubaker, Mike Deodato, Rain Beredo

There are a lot of good things to be said about this book.  Brubaker writes a great comic, and manages to squeeze in a lot of characters that I feel are underutilized, like War Machine, Nova, Ant-Man, and Moon Knight, not to mention the fact that it’s nice to see Steve Rogers in a role that’s more than just a supervisory one, something more like the Captain America he used to be.  I’m really loving the idea of Nova being a threat to the team, as he’s arguably the most powerful member of the Secret Avengers, and although Brubaker doesn’t reveal the meaning of the Nick Fury reveal from the last page of issue 1, I’m sure he has something planned that will make sense(in fact, i think I know what it is).

Another thing that I like a lot about this title is that, unlike some similar setups before this one, Steve’s team isn’t strictly a “wetworks” team.  In fact, throughout the course of this book, and the first issue for that matter, there arose a few instances where it would have been very easy and probably would have made things easier if the team would have just straight up killed a dude or two, but they didn’t, and I think that’s telling of Marvel’s “Heroic Age,” and also true to Steve Rogers’ character.  I understand that he was a soldier initially, so in some sense it doesn’t really make sense that he wouldn’t kill, but he’s been using non-lethal force for quite some time now, so I think that applies moreso.

So far, we’ve seen the team dynamic in effect in several sequences, and I like how they work together when they’re in conflict, but it will be interesting to see some more of how the characters interact when they’re not on a mission.  I think Brubaker does fairly well on those kinds of exchanges in other books I’ve read by him, so I’m extremely interested to see how he does with these characters.

The art is a joy to look at.  It’s descriptive and allows the action to flow smoothly, it’s detailed without being needlessly complex, and while it’s a bit heavy on the darkness at times, it tends to be good for the setting.  I think I’m going to reserve final judgement on the title itself until I read a few more issues, but with the way the first two issues have been, I can easily see this becoming one of my favorite titles of the year, and possibly my favorite team book.

Volstagg’s Beard 4/5

Marvel Zombies 5 #4

Marvel Comics, $3.99

Fred Van Lente, Fernando Blanco, Felix Ruiz, Val Staples

It’s been interesting to see how Van Lente approached zombies throughout this series.  There has been fairly standard zombies, zombie breeders, Evil Dead type zombies, and this issue sees the introduction of tech zombies.  It’s a world that’s pretty much run by Machine Man’s ex, Jocasta, so that means we get more character development for Aaron, which is always nice.  While he’s confronting her, learning all about her evil plan, and trying to complete the mission on this planet, we have Howard and Jackie trying to keep up with the times, as it were, and fit in a little bit in this new setting.

It’s always nice to see Amadeus Cho in use, but it’s a little disheartening to see him spreading the plague as he does, although the Lost analogue that they use is fairly amusing.  Similarly, the use of Arno Stark is something I hadn’t even thought of, although it should be fairly obvious, I guess.  One of my favorite parts of the story is Jocasta’s reasoning behind spreading this particular form of the zombie plague.  It’s an interesting concept, and one that you don’t really think about when reading about it in comics.  It’s a character’s motivation, but taken one step further, actually to completion and beyond, and that’s what’s interesting.

The art for this entire series has been very well done.  Cartoony when it needs to be(Howard the Duck), and serious and detailed at other times.  I’ll be interested to see how Van Lente wraps it all up in the next issue.

Ollie’s Beard 3/5

Atomic Robo vol. 4 #4

Red 5 Comics, $3.50

Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattinson, Jeff Powell

You should have seen this coming, frankly.  I can’t get enough of Robo, and in fact, the only thing bad I have to say about this issue is that it’s a shame that it’s the last one of the volume.  The 4th volume of Robo hasn’t really told a cohesive story like the others have, but that’s ok.  Robo has such a good writer in Clevinger and has such a solid premise working for him that as long as each issue tells a complete story, it’s no problem.    And each issue definitely tells a cohesive story.  I’m not going to ruin this one, as you should go out and buy it, but the character on the cover is the main focus.  It’s a character that, knowing Robo’s past, is only a surprise in the fact that he hasn’t shown up yet in the comics.

Clevinger’s clever dialogue sells the issue as always, and Wegener’s fantastic art completely sell the story of a group of Action Scientists(the best new phrase in comics in quite some time) trying to quantify a ghost.  Let me tell you, they sequence where they run a series of tests on the ghost is just plain fantastic and a complete joy to read.

What I will be waiting for, specifically, from the next series is going to be the story behind the character on the cover and his interactions with Robo in the past.  There’s a lot in the historical record(I know Robo’s not real, folks, just trust me), and even more that can be inferred, but I think it would be a serious missed opportunity if Clevinger didn’t take the time to tell that story.  It’s going to be a wait, and not one that I’m going to enjoy.

Volstagg’s Beard 4/5

Green Lantern #55

DC Comics, $2.99

Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy

There’s a lot going on in this book, as evidenced on the cover.  Obviously, there’s Lobo, who’s after Atrocitus, and Hal who decides it’s in his best interest to make sure that Atrocitus is kept out of custody.  As seen in other recent issues of Green Lantern, Carol and Sinestro are also helping Hal out, at least until they all figure out the White Lantern thing.  What’s really interesting, though, is everything that’s going on below the surface of the story.  For example, what Atrocitus is trying to accomplish and the lengths he’s willing to go to do so, as well as what’s being done with the entities that embody each corps, not to mention the mystery of Lobo’s employer, or the inclusion of the Spectre.

Running throughout a fight that shows us just how inventive each Lantern can be with their ring and constructs, we have a running conversation, mostly between Atrocitus and Hal that kind of explains what’s going on, while leaving enough to the imagination to keep you guessing for the foreseeable future of the Green Lantern title.  I’m really looking forward to the next issue, which promises more Larfleeze, too.

Enough about the main story, though, I feel like the main attraction of this book is the back up story.  It’s just the origin story of Red Lantern Dex-Starr, who you may know as the cat Red Lantern.  Interestingly enough, Dex-Starr was originally intended to be a joke, but has somehow become the second most recognizable member of the corps, and maybe even the most recognizable.  The story shows that there is such a thing as righteous rage, and tells a very relatable story about a cat who succumbs to his rage enough to be worthy of wielding a red ring.  Honestly, folks, the origin of Dex-Starr, while only a few pages long, is one of the best things I’ve read in comics in quite some time, and is definitely my favorite origin story for a member of any of the Lantern corps.

Ollie’s Beard 3/5

The Flash #3

DC Comics, $2.99

Geoff Johns, Francis Manapul

There’s a lot of good coming out of Geoff Johns lately, and that’s why he gets to have 2 books reviewed on this week’s installment.  The Flash has started to heat up a little bit, and I really like where things are going.  What’s really intriguing about the title so far is the Renegades.  The idea of police officers from the future using the identities and powers of the Flash rogues to combat, specifically, the Reverse Flash is a pretty good idea.  Given the nature of Flash stories and how often time travel is a factor in them, I’m surprised that no one has thought of this before.  I also like the idea of Barry having to prove his innocence in two different cases.

The book also follows the Captain Boomerang subplot all the way from the end of Blackest Night, and in this issue, gives him some interesting powers and sees him (inadvertently?) helping the Flash out against the Renegades, although the teaser for the next issue makes me believe that that will be short lived.  It’s also interesting to see the Trixter using a modified version of Mr. Terrific’s T-Spheres as part of his arsenal.

Also new in this issue is the backup feature of Flash Facts, with this particular issue focusing, appropriately enough, on boomerangs.  There are two pages in the back, one explaining boomerangs and one explaining Captain Boomerang’s boomerangs specifically.  I’m really liking where this series is going, and can’t wait for some resolution from this storyline.

Ollie’s Beard 3/5

Invincible Iron Man Annual #1

Marvel Comics, $4.99

Matt Fraction, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Matt Wilson

Wow, where to start on this one.  I don’t normally read Iron Man, but there was some buzz surrounding this one and the comic shop just happened to have an extra copy, so I picked it up.  Normally I’m a bit leery of paying $4.99 for a book unless it’s one I’m enjoying quite a bit, but Ed Brubaker raved about this story on Twitter, calling it “a clinic on storytelling and content for money,” which it is.  At 68 solid pages, all for 1 story, this book is a steal at $4.99.  The story is one of the most entertaining stories I’ve read in a while, and for an Iron Man story to be so interesting and engaging without using Iron Man at all is a testament to the quality.

Now you might think a 68 page story would be too long to be enjoyable, but you’d be wrong.  The story has you identify strongly with the lead character, a famous movie director who is kidnapped by the Mandarin to put together a movie for the Mandarin.  All throughout, you feel for the main character as he traverses the peaks and valleys of the story, and it was nearly impossible for me to see how it was going to end, and that’s saying something when you’ve read as many comics as I have.

Writers in comics would do well to learn from this story.  Take notes as you read, do what Fraction does, or at least be able to recognize why this is a good story.  If you’re an Iron Man fan, or if you just like to read a great, compelling story, then you MUST read this.

Odin’s Beard 5/5

And that’s it for next week.  Be sure to check back later this week for all of our features!

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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erik Lewis, Erik Lewis. Erik Lewis said: Invincible Iron Man Annual, Atomic Robo, The Flash, and more in this week's Single Combat 7/6/10: […]

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