Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 07/18/12

Hey, everybody!  Have you heard the news?  It's Weekly Crisis Comic Book Review time!  This week we're looking at such exciting books as Adventure Time #6, the new Captain Marvel #1, and Saga #5.  To check out my thoughts on these titles, you just need to hit the jump.  I'll see you on the other side!

Written by Ryan North
Art by Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb
Back-up Story by Anthony Clark

So it shouldn't come as too big of a surprise when I saw that the Adventure Time comic is kind of the best.  I've spoken very highly of the past issues, and while it might be sounding a bit like a broken record, I simply cannot help but continue to do so.  This book is the perfect combination of fun and adventure that is accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds.  I honestly feel like Ryan North and company are creating something special here.

After the brilliant one-shot issue from last time, we're getting right back into the realm of storyarcs, as North quickly starts spinning a yarn about time travel.  Now, as you may or may not know, that is a subject that is near and dear to North's heart, and his attention to detail is clear from page one.  There's obviously been a lot of time travel stories written in the past, and North is conscious of that legacy, offering a whole bunch of the tropes you know and love, including some cute misdirection and the requisite overly complex explanation of how the time travel device works (although he also breaks it down to a more comprehensible explanation, too).  However, North isn't content to merely tread in the footsteps of past stories, providing his own spin on the whole situation that is heavily inspired by his sense of humour and that of the show's.  The end result is a great beginning to what looks to be a really interesting story.

Of course, there's more to this story than the simple inclusion of time travel.  Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum's actions and reactions to having a ready to use time machine are what differentiates this story from all the other time travel stories that have come before.  I know that that sounds patently obvious, but North has an incredibly strong handle on these characters and their respective voices and presences are what make this story special.  Whether it's Finn and Jake (im)patiently waiting for Princess Bubblegum to return so that they can time travel more or Jake's constant search for excuses to use the machine, it's all a whole lot of fun.

And, as in issues' past, a big part of that fun is Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb's art.  After taking the last issue off, they are back in full force here, bringing the same type of terrific work they've done in the first four issues of this series.  There isn't the same degree of dynamic movements or action that they had during that Lich-arc, but that doesn't stop them from laying down some great moments throughout the story.  Their character work and body language is once again top notch, as what the characters are doing often says just as much as North's dialogue.

While the quality sometimes varies, I've really enjoyed how each issue of Adventure Time has backups written and drawn by different creators.  This time around, it's Anthony Clark of Nedroid fame (if you don't know who that is, you should probably hit that link and prepare to laugh a whole bunch).  When I heard that he'd be contributing to this series, I was pretty pleased, a sentiment that only increased when I discovered that his story involved wizards and video games.

The whole thing is incredibly silly, as Jake tries to cheer up Finn, who has been unable to complete level 99 of Wizard Wars.  His method of choice?  Filming a fan video while dressing up as one of said wizards to provide encouragement to his best bud.  Despite his best efforts, the whole project attains mixed results.  It's a charming little tale filled with some cute moments that builds up to a nice little heartwarming ending between Finn and Jake.  Like North, Clark infuses quite a lot of his own sensibilities into the story, while remaining true to the characters, which makes for a nice combination.  I also really enjoyed his take on the Adventure Time cast, which was a nice meld between the regular models and his own unique style.

Verdict - Check It.  This book is just so much fun that it's not fair to other books on the stands.  North seems to be laying the groundwork for some exciting things to come (I believe I've heard "Cable parody" applied to describe the coming issues), but he doesn't forget to provide a good story while doing that.  Additionally, I really enjoyed Anthony Clark's backup, so that's a plus.

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Dexter Soy

While it wasn't originally on my pull list, once I found myself in my local comic book shop, I couldn't resist the siren call of Carol Danvers' latest solo effort.  There was a lot of chatter building up to this issue's release, and I felt the need to see what it was all about.

While I'm not terribly familiar with the former-Ms. Marvel, I feel like Carol Danvers is a character that lots of people, both creators and fans alike, have wanted to be more prominent than she is.  A perpetual near A-lister, for whatever reason, it feels like Carol has continually been unable to attain that level of recognition and / or importance.  Or maybe it's just me.

Either way, she's back starring in her own series, and I think the most apt way to describe her debut issue is to say that it shows a lot of promise, but doesn't quite land its mark.  There's a lot of positives throughout the issue, but it doesn't quite come together in a coherent whole.  This is true in the most general sense, as there are really two stories being told in this issue.  It opens with a fight between Carol and Captain America against Absorbing Man that focuses on the "why" of Carol changing her name to Captain Marvel.  After that, there's a story where Carol reminisces about her background and who she is that acts to set up part of the status quo for this series.  Unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of tying these two discrete stories together.  Once she decides to go with the new name, she just jets off and goes all introspective, making for a bit of a disjointed narrative, which is a bit of a let down.

Additionally, there isn't anything in the way of explaining why Carol has a new costume, although a number of characters make comments on her new apparel, which is a bit strange and feels like something of an oversight.

More frustratingly, the issues spends a good portion of its pages playing with gender roles and their meaning / relevance, especially with Absorbing Man being a pretty big misogynist, but I'm not really sure what the point of it all was.  It comes off as a bit defensive, almost as if there was a need to justify why a female character could headline her own book, which I feel isn't necessary.  Firstly, anyone who believes that a female character can't is wrong, and secondly, if there are those who feel that way, they unfortunately won't be reading this type of book.  More importantly, this aspect of the book isn't really built on in any significant way, once again begging the question of why it was included.  During the second half, there's a portion where Carol emphasizes how important flying is to her, going on at length about a female pilot idol of hers, which could be related, but the connection isn't emphasized enough for that to be clear.  Once again, I feel like there was something here, but its full potential wasn't realized.

That being said, there are good moments in this issue, such as Carol's chat with Captain America about her name and her sparring with Spider-Man, that remind you of why she's such an interesting character, but I feel like there could have been more of these.  I understand that need to properly set up a new ongoing series, but I feel like the focus was slightly off at times.

I also have to say that I'm not wild about the art.  Dexter Soy has a very loose, expressive nature to his pencils and inks that I like, but it sometimes overwhelms the page, resulting in a bit of a muddied look that can sometimes to hard to decipher.  At times I found myself wishing that things could be slightly more defined for clarity's sake, but some scenes are more noticeable than others.  However, the most egregious thing was the colouring, which was rather uneven.  Some parts looked quite sharp, while others were off to the point of distraction.  I'm thinking specifically of skin tones here, which are really off at points, resulting in some characters having a dead or jaundiced look to them that is not terribly flattering or appealing.  This was especially conspicuous during that opening fight scene, with Captain America looking a bit like a zombie in a few scenes.

Verdict - Check It.  This is an interesting opener, providing a window into Carol Danvers' new status quo, but I feel like it could have been a bit more explicit or in-depth at times.  With all these hints and how excited DeConnick has been about writing the character, there's definitely a lot of promise here, but it wasn't yet been realized.  I imagine that things will be slightly better articulated in the issues to come, but considering this opener, I'm not sure I'll stick around to see.

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

I think I can safely say that Brian K. Vaughan is a crazy talented writer.  While his previous work on most anything that he's done has shown this time and time again, the vast majority of those previous projects were either set in pre-existing worlds or in an alternate version of our own.  Saga is the first time where Vaughan has had to create the entire world (and universe) that his character inhabit from scratch.  Many things are clearly inspired by our world, but Vaughan is the man responsible for filling in the blanks.  There's no shorthand for him to fall back on here.

He showed himself capable of the task from the first issue, but I was particularly struck of how well he accomplished this in this issue.  It's not that there's a particularly striking revelation going on in this issue, because there isn't one.  No, instead of one great big reveal, Vaughan offers bits and pieces of insight throughout these 22 pages.  And the part that really impressed me is that these disclosures are seamlessly integrated into the book's narrative.  The story doesn't pause to tell us that the Wreath have different physiologies and what that means for each individual, it just shows us that they don't all look the same and the reader can choose to wonder what, if anything, that might mean.  Vaughan has created a vast, internally consistent universe here, and while our story only takes up a small corner of that whole, he continues to manage to provide the reader with everything they need to know in a naturally and unobtrusive manner.

Saga has also been somewhat unique for the size of its cast and how many point of view characters we're treated to.  Depending on how you see things, you could say that there are between four or seven different characters that we've been following thus far, and Vaughan has done an excellent job of dividing their face time in a balanced way.  It helps that everyone is currently linked to our protagonists, Marko and Alana in one way or another, providing a very natural focal point for every character's actions to revolve around.

Thus far, the main thrust has been following Marko and Alana as they run around Cleave trying to finally leave their bloody pasts behind them, but last issue saw them finally getting pushed into a corner that they couldn't get out of.  Of course, that means that this issue shows us what happens when our desperate heroes get into life or death situations.  And this is where Fiona Staples really steps in.  Obviously, she's all over this book, providing gorgeous art from the start until the end, but the fight scene from this issue is some of the best stuff she's done thus far.  There's no dialogue or sound effects, so it's all Staples.  And I gotta say, it's some brutal stuff.  It gives us a completely different side of Marko, one that Vaughan doesn't hesitate to elaborate on once the dust settles.

Speaking of brutal, Vaughan has never hesitated to knock his characters around, and the same obviously holds true in Saga.  While Marko and Alana haven't been having the easiest of times these past five issues, The Will hasn't exactly had a walk in the park either.  His trip to Sextillion comes to a difficult end in this issue, and while it might not be quite as bloody as Marko and Alana's part of the issue, it's challenging nonetheless.  Vaughan has done an amazing job using that trip to demonstrate who The Will is and to push him as a character, and unfortunately for The Will, it doesn't look like things will be getting any easier, as it's really looking like the solution he comes up with to his current problem will only cause him more pain.  It can be hard to read, but these tough situations ultimately make for a better story.

Verdict - Buy It.  Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga continues to be the best new book of this year.  Vaughan is bringing all of his previous experience to bear on this new universe and story that he's telling, and Staples' art continues to be filled with style and panache.  Every issue of this series is a joy, and I don't image that will be changing anytime soon.

That's me for the week.  How was your comics haul?  Did you check out the new Captain Marvel?  What did you think of it?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Anonymous said...

Saw the images of Cable Fin from comic-con it is very math

David said...

I loved Captain Marvel. Very good stuff.

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