Title: The Theory of Eternal Life
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Dustin Weaver
Colorist: Christina Strain with Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Todd Klein
Cover: Gerald Parel & Dustin Weaver
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
This issue delves deeper into the mystery of the High Council of Shield, the hidden society that seems to have been steering the major events in the Marvel Universe for thousands of years. This issue we see Isaac Newton’s machinations, a surprise visit from one the biggest names in the Marvel U, a kind of squicky dalliance with the Deviants, and a declaration of villainy.
This title is simply insane. It’s flying all over the place, throwing all kinds of chunks of Marvel continuity, real history and conspiracy theory history into a pot and mixing them into something that’s totally ludicrous, but undeniably engrossing. Jonathan Hickman is bringing more and wilder ideas to the table than anybody else writing mainstream comics right now, and between this title and Fantastic Four, he’s easily poised to become one of Marvel’s most consistently awesome writers. I haven’t got the slightest idea where he’s planning to take this comic book, but I really don’t care. He’s got me along for the ride, no questions asked.
Also in the “awesome” category is Dustin Weaver’s art. While is isn’t strictly your standard superhero fare, it’s not so far off the grid as to look like it won’t fit in the Marvel Universe either. It has a sort of weird steampunk vibe to it, which is perfect for a book like this one, which seems poised to put Leonardo DaVinci and Isaac Newton against each other while Galactus bops around in the background.
As crazy as this comic book is, I can’t help but love it. Hickman is a mad genius.
I’ve been a fan of Mike Allred‘s Madman for a long time now, and I was looking forward to this new series with great anticipation. It’s not exactly what I expected those — Madman has always been a cerebral superhero comic, but these first two issues have given themselves over to that side of the character almost completely. Frank Einstein is struggling with the very nature of his reality, if anything outside of himself actually exists, or if he’s being manipulated by that very sort of outside force. Allred‘s artwork is taking an experimental turn as well — nearly every page of this issue is part of a two-page spread, and much of the artwork has a dreamlike quality, done with lighter color strokes and make it seem a little less real. I’m not really sure if this is less like the Madman I’ve missed or more like him than ever. Either way, though, I’m enjoying the ride quite a bit.
This month, as Tranquility reacts to Leona’s attempted suicide, Tommy’s investigation leads her to a new clue in Mr. Articulate’s murder. As always, there’s a lot of good stuff in this book — we find out how the former Maximum Man and Henry Hate spend their downtime, the surprise breakout star Emoticon gets a really nice scene, and the Liberty Snots go to war. In other words — 22 pages of awesome. Gail Simone packs this mystery with an incredible amount of comedy and an incredible amount of characterization. The book somehow manages to be both plot-driven and character-driven at the same time, and firmly carves out its own place in the Wildstorm universe without divorcing itself from it. Neil Googe is also rapidly rising up my list of favorite artists — he has an ability to blend different genres of story seamlessly, which is just what this book requires. I’m anxious as anything to reach the reveal on this mystery, and I’m even more anxious to see where the book goes after that.
Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!
Writer: Eric Shanower
Art: Eric Shanower
Publisher: Image Comics
PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: It says “The Story of the Trojan War”… so… it’s history, right? Or mythology? Did I study this in English class or in social studies?
IMPRESSIONS: The story starts with Paris, who get ticked off when some guys show up to take his family’s prized white bull to the king. Paris’s father lets them take the bull, even though they were going to sacrifice it themselves. So Paris decides he’s going to enter a contest to win the bull back. He celebrates by hunting down this girl he knows, someone who is getting foreboding images of the future. And they do it. Then Paris and his father go to Troy.
It’s been a long time since my high school English classes, but a couple of things here are ringing bells. The name “Paris,” I know, has something to do with Troy, and they wind up there at the end of the issue. It seems like Eric Shanower is actually telling the story of the Trojan war from the very beginning, from the stuff that happened to cause it and not just adapting the Iliad. (Note: Blake Petit, reviewer and English Teacher, is well aware that the Iliad is not a comprehensive account of the Trojan War, but Joe Average, who’s writing this “Somebody’s First Comic Book” review, is under the usual misapprehension that it is.) Paris doesn’t exactly seem like the nicest guy, and you get the feeling that he’s going to cause some major trouble later on, but at the beginning of the story you can understand why he’s angry and why he wants to go after the King. That’s one nice-looking bull.
This is pretty impressive. The art is good, and the history (or mythology or whatever) is told on a level that’s easy to understand for the layperson. Seems like Shanower has a really long road ahead of him, telling this story, but he’s got the skill for it too.
Title: Presenting: Atlas 2.0
Writer: Aaron Williams
Art: Aaron Williams
Publisher: Do-Gooder Press
Continuing the usual brilliant work of Aaron Williams, this issue of PS 238 features Moonshadow and Argonaut on the run from the Argosian guards, and with Argonaut’s powers gone, they may need a little help. Back on Earth, the young Argosian who was stranded there after the invasion is recruited by the government to take on the mantle of Atlas, Argonaut’s father, who has returned to his home planet. The trouble is, the new Atlas isn’t quite the hero the first one was, so Julie is recruited to give him a crash course in being a superhero.
When this title is on, and it is, Williams can combine funny and exciting better than anybody working in comics right now. Atlas 2.0’s reactions to the tropes of heroism are really entertaining, and while some of them betray his alien heritage, others poke holes in the conventional logic of the superhero genre. We also get to see just how much Julie, or “84,” has grown as a character in the last few story arcs. She’s a much stronger person – emotionally – than she was before, and that’s that strength that makes her story work. Throw in a funny villain and the book hits all the marks it needs.
We also get, as usual a Full Frontal Nerdity back-up feature. This time, as the gang come down with a case of Gamer Flu, they hallucinate themselves into a Wizard of Oz parody. The high concept of this series may turn some people off (a bunch of gamers sitting at a table… gaming), but the execution makes it much more accessible than similarly-themed strips like Knights of the Dinner Table. Having Williams on the art doesn’t hurt either.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Lex Luthor: Man of Steel
Inside the mind of Superman’s greatest foe.
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Lee Bermejo
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Will Dennis
Cover Art: Lee Bermejo
Publisher: DC Comics
I’ve probably been one of the harshest critics of Brian Azzarello’s run on Superman. I think it’s a mess of extraneous plotlines, continuity holes, and poor characterization that’s probably gone on about eight months too long, and it still has two months to go. Reading it, I don’t feel like he has the slightest idea what Superman is really about. So imagine my surprise when I picked up his take on Superman’s worst enemy and found it to be really good.
Azzarello may not have a grip on Superman, but he’s definitely got a handle on Lex Luthor. Set at some indeterminate point in the past (although it has a tie to the current Question miniseries through the Science Spire), this first issue shows the world of Metropolis through Luthor’s eyes. We see him paint himself as a rather sympathetic man, someone who thinks of himself as benevolent, even as those around him know him for the ruthless monster that he is. He genuinely sees the Man of Steel as a threat to the world – at least the world as he sees it – and he sees himself as a hero for attempting to eradicate that threat. This miniseries – at least the first issue of it – accomplishes the very difficult task of making Luthor understandable without making him sympathetic.
Lee Bermejo’s artwork is a perfect marriage for this series. It’s dark and grim, almost ultra-realistic. It wouldn’t work on a regular Superman comic, but man, does it work for Lex. His world is a dark one, and he even manages to make Superman look dark and menacing through his eyes. There’s one full-page shot of Superman behind Luthor where the hero looks dangerous, threatening… downright menacing.
I haven’t liked a lot of Azzarello’s writing, to be honest, but this has got to be the best comic of his I’ve ever read. In some context, that could be damning with faint praise, but it shouldn’t be interpreted that way. This is quite a good comic book.
Title: No Baseball For Betty Part Four
Writer: Melanie J. Morgan
Penciler: Rod Whigham
Inker: Al Milgrom
Colorist: Stephanie Vozzo
Letterer: John Workman
Cover: Rod Whigham and Al Milgrom
Managing Editor: Michael Pellerito
Publisher: Archie Comics
The conclusion to the latest Archie “New Look Story” takes Betty to the start of baseball season at Riverdale high. Having convinced the school board that she should be allowed to try out for the baseball team, now Betty has to see if she actually has what it takes to make the cut… and if she does, will her skills be enough to help the team take the conference championship?
I’ll save you a little suspense – Betty does, in fact, make the team, because this would be a tremendously depressing comic if she didn’t. This actually happens in the first few page of the story, and the rest of the issue is concerned with the team’s performance over the course of the entire season. Therein, in fact, lies the problem with this issue. For the first three chapters of this story, the main conflict was the question of whether or not Betty belonged on the baseball team. The main conflict of the entire arc is wrapped up on page two, making the rest of the story very anticlimactic. It probably would have helped considerably if the question of who was on the team was resolved last issue, making this entire issue about playing the game.
There are good moments during the season, fortunately, to help out. Archie’s encounter with a rival pitcher is entertaining, and even Reggie shows a bit of growth and development that the character isn’t always exactly known for. That’s hurt a little by the art, though – Rod Whigham usually does a good job, but in Reggie’s big moment he actually looks like Jughead (and behaves like Jughead) so much that I didn’t realize it was Reggie until another character called him by name.
This issue, as always, is filled up by tons of reprints from Archie’s vast library. Like any set of reprints, the quality varies, but for the most part it’s a good sampler and it reminds us that, at $3.99 for 250 pages, the Archie double digests are still the best value in comics.