Saturday, February 8, 2014

SHORT REVIEWS: Meanwhile, back at Marvel and DC . . . .

AVENGERS WORLD #1 (Marvel, March 2014) Jonathan Hickman & Nick Spencer, writers. Stefano Caselli, artist. Color artist, Frank Martin.

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          I stepped away from trying to follow THE AVENGERS after the events of Secret Invasion when the number of Avengers titles and over-lapping mega-storylines just became too much to try to stay up with. The same thing happened to THE UNCANNY X-MEN many years prior. I just had to give up. And, truth be told, super-hero stories just weren’t giving me that same bang for the buck that I once enjoyed. However, I never lost my interest in many of these iconic characters so I kept looking in from time to time. So here comes Marvel with yet another re-boot. So, I decide to pick a new Avengers book and jump in again. (so soon after Marvel Now! - - does that make this Marvel That Was Then, This Is Now! ??) Considering the team-up of Hickman and Spencer, two writers I admire and respect, it seemed like my best bet.

The verdict is not in yet. This is a big blooming book jammed to the gills with characters and secondary events. There are 16 members featured on this team, so it’s going to take awhile to see who gets the spotlight and how they are developed. Iron Man and another character (a female Vance Astro?) are also featured on the cover but nowhere in the book - - so there may be even more players once this storyline gets going. If you blink you might miss seeing your favorite hero. Thor, Hyperion and Captain Marvel are here, but only appear in one single panel. In the meantime, there are three major global catastrophic events occurring at the same time and dividing team members into splinter groups to investigate, rescue civilians or avert disaster. If you don’t read this book twice and give it some focus you are not going to remember anything after putting it down.

          The art by Caselli is good but not great. He does give some new features to classic characters. You know you are viewing Captain America, but as depicted by Caselli there is a different look around the face and hair. (Although, in one panel three different characters are drawn with the same exact nose.) The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. have combined forces to work together to keep the world safe. It certainly looks like that’s what it’s going to take once the root of all the problems is uncovered in the closing pages. It’s a real epic, folks. I just hope it doesn’t cross over into any other books. This is complex. Will I return for another dip? I believe so, once I work up my courage.

BATMAN AND ROBIN ANNUAL #2 (DC, March 2014) Peter J. Tomasi, writer. Doug Mahnke with Pat Gleason, pencillers.

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          You can always trust Tomasi to write a good Batman story, and he doesn’t disappoint here with a neat all-in-one flashback tale. It’s a tale of Batman and Robin’s (Dick Grayson) very first outing as a team. The story is book-ended by some present day reminiscing when Nightwing (also Grayson) reveals to Bruce Wayne (Batman) that he tried to instill some confidence in Robin (Damien) prior to his first day by re-telling his own first day at Batman’s side.

          Just like Damien, Dick as Robin was also impulsive, dangerously brave, and a little bit cocky and arrogant. It was their first encounter with the villain Tusk (a brawny gangster of elephantine proportions). Mahnke does a good job with the art and it’s hard to detect the Gleason assistance/influence. This story could have been even better if it was solely illustrated by Gleason, who probably needed a bit of a break. Tomasi and Gleason work so well together. Don’t even think about breaking up that team, DC!

 

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