This week in 3-2-1 Comics!: Morrison makes another Action Comics mess! I coin the new Dr. Octopus/Spider-Man nickname that will take the web by storm! And ANOTHER Star Wars series! And here’s the kicker: it’s not that bad!
3 – DC Comics
Dammit Grant! You have only one issue before your super-sized Action Comics #17 finale and this is what you give us?! Come on man. Now don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a horrible issue, not even a bad one. But the final showdown between Superman and “The Little Man” has been teed up for some time now, and the results thus far have been very messy, in a bad way. Action Comics #16 shows us a curious point in time that references Superman’s death at the hands of Doomsday. This baffling curve-ball in no way meshes with New 52 continuity nor Morrison’s current Action Comics “flashback” timeline. Similar to last issue, Brad Walker shoulders the majority of the artwork with a little bit of Rags Morales here and there. Walker does very well here, and probably could’ve faired better without the hit-or-miss Morales altogether. I almost skipped The Legion of Superheroes backup story by Sholly Fisch and Chris Sprouse because the Legion has always confused me. Nevertheless I gave it a shot, and it was a great and sad tale of irony, accessible to any comic book reader. Overall I wanted a lot more from this issue, namely coherence. It seems unlikely that Morrison will be able to make up for the many missteps this series has had in his last issue next month. Sad face.
Final Grade: ★★★ 3/5
Jeff Lemire continues pushing Buddy Baker through the destructive future known as “Rotworld.” This month we see our scrappy group of Red and Greensters rescuing a Green Lantern and taking on an old DC villain recently seen in the pages of Lemire’s Justice League Dark. Animal Man has been simply reacting to events in his own book for a while, so it was great to see him finally take action in the fight. Steve Pugh details this savage nature of Animal Man’s powers entertainingly. His non-traditional layouts provide a nice dichotomy to Timothy Green II’s straightforward panels in Maxine’s “present.” I must admit that I am kind of tiring of “Rotworld.” The thing with apocalyptic visions of the future is that we know everything is going to eventually go back to normal. So I hope that there will be some kind of lasting repercussion on Animal Man once this is all said and done, otherwise it will feel like its been for nothing.
Final Grade: ★★★½ 3.5/5 ______________________________________________________________________________________
For a while now, there has been a battle of sorts between Animal Man and Swamp Thing every month for top “Rotworld” book. This month’s winner is Swamp Thing. The former Alec Holland has made his way into the Batcave to find an infected Batman and a Manbat-Batgirl. (That shouldn’t make sense but it totally does.) With Barbara Gordon’s help, along with the technology of the cave, Swamp Thing takes the battle to The Rot. So really, Batman saves the day once again! There’s also a side story with Abigail Arcane vs. Anton Arcane that is less interesting. One clear way to tell if Swamp Thing beats Animal Man is if Yannick Paquette is on board. Dude kills it every time. He’s one of the best artists in the industry right now, with lush and beautiful characters, layouts and landscapes. I can’t wait to see what book he is one next. Unfortunately he will be absent from next month’s “Rotworld” finale.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5
2 – Marvel Comics
Here it is folks, the first issue of “The Amazing Spider-pus,” “The Spectacular Octo-Parker” or “The Ultimate Spot-tavius.” Those are my clever attempts at diagnosing the current disease on Peter Parker’s life: Dr. Octopus’ mind being in Spider-Man’s body. Now the whole mind swap story can be interesting and entertaining at times, but having this as the new status quo is a little hard to stomach. Forget the fact that Octavius is living the life of an Avenger, having Doc Ock romance an unknowing Mary Jane Watson is cruel to readers and just plain disgusting. Ryan Stegman provides decent visuals with pencils that are reminiscent of Humberto Ramos, but not as cleanly-polished. Most of this issue is Octavius’ ego getting the better of him, nothing new really. So far this new Spidey book is quite silly, with such a damned corny twist ending that its too much.
Final Grade: ★★½ 2.5/5
The second full week of January brings us yet another chapter in the lackluster conclusion to Greg Rucka’s otherwise enjoyable Punisher run. This month the “Punisher vs. The Avengers” book has Frank Castle facing off against the God of Thunder himself, Thor. Now this battle may seem one-sided until you realize that it is less of a battle and more of a one-on-one conversation. Rucka’s scripting in this “super-talk” attempts to scrape at the core of Castle’s character, but its nothing that hasn’t been explored before. Also, I am confident that I will never be satisfied by Carmine Di Giandomenico’s artwork. His action layouts are alright, but his characters always have a “mule-like” quality to them that I thoroughly dislike. This issue was a teensy bit better than the last, but not by much.
Final Grade: ★★½ 2.5/5
1 – Dark Horse Comics
After reading bits of articles here and there, I figured I’d give Star Wars #1 a shot to see what the hype was all about. The series takes places shortly after the events of the original 1977 Star Wars film, with both the Rebel Alliance and the Empire scrambling for a place of dominance after the destruction of the Death Star. Writer Brian Wood places Princess Leia at the forefront of the narrative. This is a wise choice, given her largely unexplored character in the films, compared to Luke or Han. Leia is given a lot of pull here, by Wood and by the Rebel Alliance, flying X-Wings with Luke and heading up a secret Rebel task force. One thing that Wood’s script suffers from is too much exposition. I understand that Dark Horse is trying to pose this as a book accessible to readers who “haven’t experienced Star Wars,” but do you really think a Dark Horse comic book is the first place they’d try it out? Hardly. Other heavy-handed lines like “Fear is the currency Vader deals in” were enough to make me cringe. The character work by Carlos D’anda is expressive and youthful. His pencils provide the exact notion of Star Wars nostalgia that Wood’s script is aiming for. This was a pretty good first issue, my only worry is the same one that I have with most “prequel” stories. Wood will have to line up all of the characters in the places they are in right before The Empire Strikes Back. Depending on his talent, this could make for a boring or very interesting read in the long run.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5