Here is the inaugural Wednesday Reviews (Still looking for a better title for it). Let’s jump into it.
Green Lantern #20
- Written by Geoff Johns
- Art by Doug Mahnke, Patrick Gleason, Cully Hamner, Aaron Kuder, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, Joe Prado, Ethan Van Sciver, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Marc Deering, Mark Irwin, Wade von Grawbadger, Tom Nguyen, Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina
- Published by DC Comics
This is it. It’s been touted for months, but now, “GL” writer Geoff Johns is leaving the book after resurrecting Hal Jordan a decade ago and Johns goes out on top.
10 years ago, Johns was a freelance writer working for both Marvel and DC. At the time, he was doing more prolific work at Marvel, having just started a run on “The Avengers” At the same time, Hal Jordan was in obscurity. He was the host for The Spectre, DC’s Spirit of Vengeance, and was mostly still known as the psycho who tried to destroy the DC Universe as “Parallax.” What a difference 10 years makes as Johns is now part of the triad that runs DC Comics and Hal Jordan has been completely pardoned (by characters and readers alike) for his crimes as Parallax, especially after Johns introduced the idea that Jordan was actually infected by the embodiment of fear, whose name was…drumroll….Parallax.
Simply put, Green Lantern would not be at it’s current heights without Johns. This issue is a parade of all that Johns brought to the “GL” mythology and what made his run one of the new classics of comics. Characterization is top notch. Hal Jordan has come a long way since he first came back to life. His arrogance has finally been put into check, with Hal now only falling back onto it when he is desperate (as he was in last issue’s cliffhanger). Readers not only see him as a fully fleshed out character, but as possibly the most powerful ring-bearer to join the Lantern Corps. The impact of something can only be seen in the change that results from it and Johns has turned Hal Jordan into a character that, while not topping Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent, can stand toe to toe with the greats.
But as much as Johns has done with Hal Jordan, he has done even more to humanize and empower Jordan’s nemesis, Sinestro. As the former greatest Green Lantern ever, Sinestro has spent far too many years as a one note villain, serving only as a dark double to the Green Lanterns. But under Johns, not only has Sinestro tapped into a power the rivals GL, but readers understand and, at some points, even root for the character. Since 2011’s relaunch, Johns has shown the humanity and heroism of Sinestro and this issue is the final part of what may as well be a Masters class in “Super Villain Redemption.”
And the art is great as well, though no longer at its peak. I have never been the biggest Doug Mahnke fan, finding his rough character designs to be somewhere between distracting and disturbing. And while that isn’t helped when he shares the art chores with a stable of fantastic artists, Mahnke does end his run as series penciller on a strong note, especially with the scenes featuring Sinestro. Personally, I would have loved to have seen more from former series (and “Blackest Night”) penciller, Ivan Reis, but he is currently occupied with the “Justice League.” But the piece that is truly breath-taking is the multi-page spread of all the Lantern Corps by Ethan Van Sciver, the artist who first brought back Hal Jordan with Johns 10 years ago.
While this book is going to continue, it feels like the final issue and it really is. The world that we have been reading these past 10 years have been constructed by Johns. Maybe he didn’t create the main cast, but he fleshed them out and made readers care about them again (or for the first time). And with that, he is able to end the book by giving readers a look into the future of these characters. We will never see these futures, but then again, we will never see these characters the same way either. A well done end from a series that was always well done.
Superior Spider-Man #10
- Written by Dan Slott
- Art by Ryan Stegman
- Published by Marvel
Last issue, for the second time in a year, Peter Parker died. Now, for the uninitiated, with last year’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #700, Peter Parker found himself on the wrong end of a mind swap with his arch-enemy, Doctor Otto Octavius (Doc Ock), who was on his deathbed. Long story short, Peter was unable to free himself before Doc Ock’s body shut down and our hero was lost, with one of his greatest enemies now wearing his body and vowing to be an even better Spider-Man than Peter was. But, in the first issue of the newly christened “Superior Spider-Man,” Peter was revealed to still have a shred of his consciousness floating around his old body, which hung around the Superior Spider-Man like a ghost, subtly able to exert control again. Last month’s issue 9 found Octavius discovering this shred and destroying it. Issue 10 is the start of a truly free Octavius and his attempt to become superior.
Like Johns and “Green Lantern,” Dan Slott has been the architect of the Spider-Man universe for nearly 5 years (which actually consists of roughly 100 issues because of “Amazing Spider-Man’s” former insane shipping schedule of 3 times a month). What’s interesting is the two writer’s approaches to the character. Both Spider-Man and Green Lantern launched with radical new status quos, but where Johns’ run created an entirely new dynamic and mythology, Slott’s take on Spider-Man really isn’t re-inventing the wheel. Even with this new palette cleanser of freeing Octavius from Peter Parker’s influence, this issue is the start of fans waiting for the other shoe to drop. The supporting cast has already grown suspicious of Ock-Peter and the story is filled with people wondering why Spider-Man is acting different. This is Slott’s mistake with this series.
There is no drama in the interactions between Ock-Peter and his friends and family. It’s obvious that Peter is going to, one day, regain his body and push out Doc Ock, but there is no suspense. The house of cards that Octavius built with this mind-swap gamble shouldn’t feel like a house of cards. The drama comes from thinking that…maybe… Peter won’t get his body back. It’s in tricking the reader into believing that this is the new status quo now and forever, but Slott doesn’t seem to want to introduce that drama or deal with it. The first issue with Peter out of the picture only serves to demonstrate Ock’s carelessness by not even trying to hide behind Peter’s personality. The one saving grace of the story is Spider-Man’s other nemesis, the Green Goblin, resurfaces by issue’s end and seems to be taking the cue from Superior Spider-Man because he is now the Goblin King, ruler of the underworld. It has been a while since any version of the Green Goblin tangled with a Spider-Man and with these two now both using new rules, this could potentially have some spark to it.
Stegman’s art, while looking much better than when the book launched, looks like a combination of Todd Nauck and Mark Bagley, but with none of the heart. It’s just a little too rough around the edges and doesn’t excite during action scenes. His layouts are probably his strongest asset, but his characterization still needs some work.
Slott’s run on Spider-Man isn’t the most amazing thing I’ve read, nor is it superior to the other Spider-Man being published by Marvel (Of note, it is interesting that with 3 Spider titles at Marvel, NONE of them feature the true blue Peter Parker). But it’s a solid, by the numbers book. It doesn’t blow your mind, but you don’t feel like you want your money back. At the end of the day though, when Peter comes back into control of his body, if Slott’s writing continues like this, you won’t miss much if you catch up using the Cliff’s Notes.
Superior Spider-Man #10 – 2.5 Colors out of 4
The Bounce #1
- Written by Joe Casey
- Art by David Messina
- Published by Image Comics
When a book opens with the hero taking a huge bong rip, you know you are in for something different.
This is the start to a great series. Now, I’m not saying that because the lead character, Jasper Jenkins, is a massive stoner/druggie/burn-out, but because writer Joe Casey knows how to set-up his players and board properly, which is especially impressive given book’s weak initial premise (basically “Spider-Man as a druggie and he swears a lot”). While there are barely any hard facts stated about any of the characters introduced (in true comics fashion, the only one who provides detailed exposition is the villain), the core of each character is clearly seen through each scene.
Jasper’s retreat into drugs comes from a desperate need for a bigger life that means…something, anything. He’s Peter Parker without the science brain to otherwise keep him occupied. His superhero persona, only known as The Bounce because his name is on the cover, is a more of a hard-edge Spider-Man (with a less flamboyant version of Speedball’s powers). It’s clear that this is not a world used to super powers, but just now discovering them. The Bounce fights a man by the name of The Crunch, who makes it clear that he is the first person to publicly use his powers as a costumed villains when he kills police chief Dan Kantor.
Jasper’s roommate Terry is the only one who seems to believe that Jasper could be doing more with his life and fills the best friend/good guy role. Now whether or not Terry is going to end up going to the dark side (a la Harry Osborn) is yet to be seen or established, but for now, he’s fills the wet blanket role.
That brings us to the two opponents Jasper and The Bounce are going to have to deal with: Assistant D.A. Jeremiah Jenkins (who is most likely Jasper’s brother as his relation to our hero isn’t firmly established), who is put in charge of rounding up any masked vigilante following the death of Chief Kantor; and the man known only as The Darling, who is a cross-between Norman Osborn and Dr. Doom, filtered through the military industrial complex. Their introduction sets the board for The Bounce’s first adventure, promising to antagonize our hero when he finally goes public.
Backing up Casey’s words is artist David Messina. Messina has been making a name for himself recently at Marvel, having just finished art duties on the “Ultimate Comics: Wolverine” four issue mini-series. Messina’s work is well laid out, which is best displayed in the last few pages, as Jasper inhales a human drug known as The Fog and is sent through a psychedelic wormhole. Messina’s work is in line with greats like J.G. Jones and Tony Harris, with some shades of Peter Chung, creator of “Aeon Flux.” The work compliments the tone that Casey is setting with the book and seeing a team gel this early is always a good sign.
This is only the beginning of a great series and as such, while it is well done and enjoyable, it’s still has to go through the steps of setting up what is to come. Casey does a great job of that, but still, there is more meat to the story then we see in the first issue. First issues only truly achieve greatness after readers see payoff to the set up. And the series will have to rise above it’s obvious Spider-Man parallels before we can see what Casey has in store for this world. But all in all, a strong start to another great series from Image.