Title: The Four Seasons: Spring
Writer: Roger Langridge
Art: Roger Langridge
Letters: Litomilano S.r.l.
Colors: Kawaii Creative Studio
Cover Art: Elisabetta Melaranci & Silvano Scolari
Publisher: Marvel Comics/Disney Comics
Although Disney’s purchase of Marvel Comics a while back hasn’t hurt Marvel in the slightest, the same can’t be said for Disney’s presence in the comic book marketplace. The Disney comics, which were in very good hands with Boom! Studios at the time, quickly went away, and all we’ve gotten so far are a few Tron comics and a very lackluster Toy Story miniseries.
Fortunately, there was still one last Roger Langridge Muppet Show arc that never got to see print with Boom!, and finally, it’s seeing the light of day. In “Spring,” the first part of “The Four Seasons,” backstage at the Muppet Show is consumed with thoughts of love. Animal has fallen for one of the guests, an ape named Meredith, but a broken heart is left in its wake.
At its best, Roger Langridge’s Muppet comics have been an incredible examination of the wild humor and incredibly bizarre world that made the TV show so great. This issue isn’t quite as wild or as crazy, but he makes up for it with a nice little character arc for Animal. The issue is a little different from what you’d typically expect from this creator and these characters, but it still feels very much like a Muppet story. Langridge also continues to bring in the classic Muppet sketches and even the songs he did in the rest of his run.
We also get a lovely cover here by Elisabetta Melaranci and Silvano Scolari, a nice, lush image that’s very different from the interior art, but not in a bad way.
Although Langridge is done both with the Muppets and with Marvel, there’s still life in this property. With another movie being scripted, hopefully Disney and Marvel will be convinced to keep this property going.
Title: Omega Rising Part Two
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Khari Evans & Lewis LaRosa
Letters: Rob Steen
Colors: Ian Hannin & Moose Baumann
Cover Art: Arturo Lozzi
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Since its relaunch earlier this summer, Valiant Entertainment has been firing on all cylinders. While Harbinger #2 is by no means a misstep, it may be the first book in the line to fall victim to the hype machine. Promised as being something that would send old-school Valiant fans a-twitter, the book tells a solid story, but isn’t quite the mindblower we were led to believe.
Peter Stanchek has been on the run from the Harbinger Foundation for some time now. Along with his best friend (a mental case) and the girl he’s got a crush on (and who he’s used his powers on to force her to be with him), he now finds himself trapped by the very people he’s been fleeing. This issue sees a fateful confrontation between Peter and Toyo Harada, the architect of all his miseries… or is he.
The good thing about the new Valiant is, not unlike DC’s New 52 or the early days of Marvel’s Ultimate line, things are familiar enough that we have certain expectations, but have changed enough that it’s still reasonable for the writers to use those expectations against us, subvert them, and go in a different direction. This issue does that, and does it well. Is it enough of a subversion to make me recoil in shock and run away, though? No, no it isn’t.
The story works, fortunately. Peter faces up to some of his sins and pays the price for them, and in such a way that you’ve got to question whether one of the members of our cast is going to come back at all. Then again, perhaps that’s just par for the course in this new world – totally new ideas, totally new paths, somewhat familiar characters. I’d be okay with that.
Evans, LaRosa, Hannin and Baumann are doing a good job here on the artwork. As I think I’ve noted elsewhere, they’re making a good effort to make these characters look fairly realistic. They aren’t the perfect action figures or pin-up models that so many superhero comics feature, and in that way, they’ve actually got far more character than a lot of those other creations. The opening pages are perhaps the most striking, with colors that really set the tone perfectly and set the prologue apart from the rest of the issue.
Perhaps most striking – as it should be – is the cover. It’s a small moment that actually fits well into the issue itself, aside from just being a bizarre image that takes you by surprise. And thanks, Valiant, for actually using word balloons on covers – most publishers these days, it seems, are afraid of such a simple device, but when it’s done well, it adds a lot.
Good issue, and perhaps if I hadn’t had my expectations raised it would even have been great.
Quick Rating: Average
Tom Morell is just instants away from death… or is he?
Writer: Kelley Puckett
Artist: Warren Pleece
Colors: Brian Haberlin
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover Art: Tomer Hanuka
Publisher: DC Focus
I’ll be up front with you guys, this is not going to be a very detailed review, because the things that happen in this issue are so bizarre that it’s almost impossible to talk about them without spoiling them. At the end of last issue, frail, sickly Tom Morrell was face-to-face with the grill of a speeding mack truck. He still is when this issue opens. In fact, he still is for the first seven pages, which gives us the classic “life flashing before his eyes” sequence that fills in the gaps of Tom’s life, illuminating his relationship with his mother more than anything else. What happens after that sequence though… I just can’t say because it gets too weird. By the end of the issue you are still left with absolutely no idea what’s going on.
Often, this is a good thing. Anything that makes you anxious to read the next issue of a comic book is generally a point in that comic’s favor. This comic gets a little frustrating, though. In terms of pacing, this issue makes Ultimate Spider-Man look like a car at Daytona, and by the time you get to the major cliffhanger at the end of issue two, you can’t help but feel that this would have been the perfect place to end issue number one.
Warren Pleece’s art is pretty good, even totally saving one sequence that otherwise would have been totally incomprehensible if Pleece wasn’t able to make his faces sufficiently distinctive. The same old problem with the DC Focus titles lingers on, though – the same color palette and same lettering style in each title continue to hurt.
That’s really all that can be said about this issue without blowing the totally bizarre, out of left field twist it takes ten pages in or so. If you guys enjoy it, come back Wednesday when it lands in stores and try to explain it to me.
Quick Rating: Very Good
More lunacy from the gang at PVP!
Writer: Scott Kurtz
Art: Scott Kurtz
Cover Art: Bryan Hitch
Publisher: Image Comics
This issue of PVP doesn’t have any big storyline, any overarching tale – it’s just a few short storylines and a lot of gags. And that’s just fine with me, because it’s still as funny as ever.
First up, Skull is told to take his cat, Scratch to the vet. The megolamaniacal kitty jumps to the conclusion that he’s being brought in to be neutered, and hilarity ensues. Seeking an ally, the cat decides to use the machine that made him a genius on Cole dog, Kirby, not realizing that multiplying the intellect of your average basset hound still doesn’t make him very smart.
Next up is a brief look on the tug-of-war between Cole and Max Powers over former PVP employees Robbie and Jase. The two slackers are dismayed with their beloved couch is taken away, not to mention their beloved beer. The results of this vignette have been used by some of those in the “Max is really a nice guy” camp to fuel their arguments. I, however, maintain that those who think Max is nice have never really worked for a Max Powers. I have done so. I have tasted evil. Evil is Max Powers.
Next up are a few gags about Jade’s sister, Miranda, who has been coming on to Brent ever since she showed up. He tries to pawn her off on Max – with intriguing results.
We round out the book with Cole and Brent engaging in, for lake of a better term, Mustache Wars, and then some “Comic Con True Stories” from Kurtz himself.
Like I said, this is kind of a scattershot issue – Kurtz breaks with his usual pattern of giving us two full storylines in the issue and instead just gives us a lot of shorts. But they’re good shorts, funny shorts, and those who read the comic strip online every day know that there’s some stuff in here that sets up future storylines – it’s actually some vital information. And it’s all quite funny.
Groundbreaking stuff? No. But still, it’s a dandy issue of PVP.
Quick Rating: Good
Title: The Brave and the Bold
As the Challengers of the Unknown are born, Hal Jordan finds a new purpose.
Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Cover Art: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC Comics
The various plotlines woven into the first two issues of The New Frontier finally start to converge, albeit tangentially, in this issue. Four brave men band together as the Challengers of the Unknown. Meanwhile, J’onn J’onzz finds his secret jeopardized and Hal Jordan signs up with Ferris Aircraft, unaware of the fate that awaits him.
Darwyn Cooke’s story gets a bit more interesting this issue as some of the various plotlines from the first two issues begin to connect. He has done a good job generating a feel for the silver age incarnations of these characters, with the exception of the “big three” of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, each of whom seems like more of a holdover of their golden age selves and who are, in fact, painted as something of an “old guard” in this series. Cooke also adds in a new character in this issue, a black man who sets out to take revenge on white supremacists that assaulted him. The story isn’t entirely original, of course, but I find myself curious about it mostly because, DC geek that I am, I can’t seem to figure out what character he is supposed to be a corollary for.
If there’s any problem with this book, it’s that so much of it seems like retreaded territory. While the classic versions of the characters are welcome, the red scare story and the reactionary Commie-hunter story are both somewhat worn out, and Cooke’s storyline doesn’t feel like it’s adding much to it, at least not yet.
As usual, his artwork is fantastic. Cooke’s iconic style is absolutely perfect for an old-fashioned comic book story, or a story that tries to take old fashioned elements and cast them in a new light. He draws the best classic versions of Superman and Batman that I’ve seen since the creators themselves put down their pencils, and the otherworldly form he gives the Martian Manhunter is spot-on.
So far, this series is more remarkable for the artwork than the storyline, but the storyline is okay. And it’s still got plenty to potential to grow – Cooke just needs to find the new paths that are available with such great source material and stop going down the old ones so much.
Title: Enter the Mandarin
Writer: Christopher Yost
Pencils: Chris Jones
Inks: Victor Olazaba
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It’s the first issue of the new comic with a remarkably unwieldy title, based on the hit cartoon show recently cancelled by Disney XD! Which kind of makes the whole thing seem futile, actually, which is a shame as it’s a really good series and a pretty solid comic book. In this first story, the Mandarin attacks, sending a dragon in to attack Stark Tower. As the Dragon causes chaos, Iron Man leads the Avengers to take the fight straight to the source.
This is a good story – quick, but classic in the style and format. Jones – who similarly is doing really good work over on DC’s Young Justice comic book – does a very good job of imitating the style of the show while still giving us the sort of dynamic comic book storytelling that you want in a book of this nature.
Title: The Fury Files: Iron Fist
Adapted By: Chris Eliopoulos
The second feature in this issue shows Nick Fury’s file on a new hero, not (yet, at least) a member of the Avengers: Iron Fist. Eliopoulos uses stills from the cartoon itself to show off who Iron Fist is, both as a character, and his capabilities as a superhero. For a young fan who may not be reading the other comics, it’s a good introduction to the character.
Title: Assembly Line
Writer: Christopher Yost
Pencils: Adam DeKraker
Inks: Terry Pallot
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Editor: Stephen Wacker
The second full story focuses on Maria Hill and Agent Coulson, reviewing some of the Avengers’ recent cases to determine their worth as a fighting unit. This one is definitely for fans of the show, showing the episodes where the battled Graviton, Wonder Man, the Leader and Kang, showing the introduction of Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Panther to the team… basically giving a rundown of all of Season 1 from Hill’s perspective. It doesn’t necessarily give us any new information, but it’s a good way to give a different angle on the events we’re already familiar with.
Shame the TV show is already on the chopping block. It’s a good half-hour of action and this comic is a worthy adaptation of it.
Title: Out of Africa
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Chas Truog & Doug Hazlewood
Letters: John Costanza
Colors: Tatjana Wood
Cover Art: Brian Bolland
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: DC Comics
Getting into the meat of his run, in this issue Grant Morrison had Animal Man and Vixen in Africa, running afoul of a strange pair who have unusual designs on the pair. Meanwhile, the strange aliens who gave Buddy Baker his powers in the first place are back, tampering with his life from behind the scenes.
I have to admit, having an inkling of what’s coming up, the Vixen/Africa storyline isn’t really holding my attention the way it should. The subplot about the aliens, about Buddy’s true origin, and where the comic is going have me much more interested. That’s what I really want to follow here, and the book isn’t getting me there as fast as I would like. It’s hard to put yourself in the mindset of the reader from 23 years ago, who didn’t know where the story was going, much as I wish it could.
As usual, Chas Truog’s art isn’t helping matters for me. The stuff with Buddy, Vixen, and the aliens is okay. The villains actually don’t look bad at all. But when we go back to the rest of our cast, to where Ellen and her friend try to piece things together, or when we see other humans besides Buddy at all… it just doesn’t work.
I’m hoping to ramp up my reading of this book, because I’m ready to get to the good stuff.