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Hypernaturals #5 [Advance Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Hypernaturals #4 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Boom! Studios’ The Hypernaturals

Back in May, I reviewed the Hypernaturals Free Comic Book Day Edition.

Since then, I ended up deciding to throw in with several Boom! titles (Higher Earth and Extermination as well as this one) and though it lacks the familiarity of a Marvel or DC title, I’m quite enjoying this so far.

So far in this first arc, the Hypernaturals centennial team is feared lost, which means that a couple of retired team members are forced to come out of retirement, joined with a couple of didn’t-quite-make-the-team teens, as they set out to discover what actually happened to the newest team and rescue them if possible.

The first issue sees the “rescue team” come together and set out on their mission, where they get a really big clue as to what they’re up against. The second issue sees the team through their first battle together while flashbacks reveal more about the characters themselves and their motivations.

Story-wise, I’m enjoying this series on the whole. There are a number of characters, and while they are individually recognizable and stand out when I see them, I’m not yet all that invested in them, and character names don’t stick with me beyond actually reading the issues or paging back through FOR names. I like the somewhat super-hero feel to this series mixed with the “cosmic,” which makes a lot of sense since it’s written by Abnett and Lanning. The concepts and world-building have been interesting and make sense in their context, without making the environment overly “fantastic.” This is definitely sci-fi and all, but at its heart the story is familiar and timeless.

Walker, Derenick, and Downer make the whole thing look really good. This series looks like a standard super-hero comic–futuristic machinery, uniforms, the works. Given this is an entirely new series, nothing jumps out at me as being ‘wrong’ and I like the various character designs so far. In some ways, this puts me in mind of something vaguely Fantastic Four-ish with a definite hint of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

I also like the backmatter, as we (at least on the first two issues) have a double-page “interview” with one of the protagonists, allowing some further insight into the characters that just isn’t possible within the pages of the story itself. For what I imagine would be obvious reasons, these remind me a bit of Watchmen.

All in all, this is another new title from Boom! that I was hesitant on initially due simply to the $3.99 price point, but have recently thrown in with as an alternative to Marvel and DC. I’m not thrilled with the price, but it doesn’t bother me so much here as it does from standard Marvel and DC fare. So far, I’d say if you’re interested in stuff by Abnett and Lanning, this would be a great series to check out for something new from them that is not constrained by a corporate sandbox.

The Hypernaturals Free Comic Book Day Edition [Review]

Written by: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by: Brad Walker & Tom Derenick
Inks by: Mark Irwin, Tom Derenick
Colors by: Stephen Downer
Letters by: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Dafna Pleban
Cover by: Francesco Mattina
Published by: Boom Studios

The appeal for me of this issue is exactly what its back cover celebrates: “Abnett & Lanning do Cosmic at BOOM! Studios.”

I’ve enjoyed Abnett & Lanning‘s work on other cosmic stuff from Marvel (what I’ve read so far of the Annihilation stuff and am looking forward to with War/Realm of Kings and so on). So, being a free issue, this caught my attention for their names alone.

Reading the issue itself, I’ve decided that part of their appeal for me came from their work involving characters I already had familiarity with, rather than all-new characters I know nothing about.

The basic bit of this issue is that we’re in the future / in space somewhere, and there’s this super-hero team that’s been around for ages, with a continual change in membership as folks try out for the team. At present, there’s some sort of celebration of the centennial for the team, but an emergency crops up that seems to be well beyond the capabilities of the current team, and may necessitate calling retired/former members of the team back to some kind of active status.

This seems to be largely prologue material–I get the feeling this is a sort of zero-issue, and the first issue will drop the reader right into the action, some of the events being shown “on-screen” in this issue but otherwise being mere exposition for the main series itself.

The story itself isn’t bad, and I kinda like the concept as this truly plays with the idea of legacies; and having a super-hero team for a century with all sorts of people moved through it in that time in varying capacities holds a lot of potential. The art’s not bad, though it’s not overly appealing to me. I had a certain distraction to trying to figure out/follow timing and the new terminology used throughout the issue, so the art wasn’t all that high on my priorities.

This is the sort of issue I tend to most enjoy from Free Comic Book Day: a new series, a new concept, and a relatively full-size issue’s worth of content that introduces the main characters/concept and really sets things up a bit for the debut issue. I’m intrigued, but I’m not sure that it’s enough to get me to pay the presumed $3.99 for this series, though I’d possibly pick it up for just $1 less at $2.99.

If you’re an Abnett and Lanning fan, I’d definitely recommend picking this up, though…especially as THIS issue’s price is quite right.

Rating: 7/10

Ultimate Spider-Man #160 [Review]

Death of Spider-Man: Part 5 of 5

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Andy Lanning with Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Art: Bagley & Ponsor
Assistant Editor: Sana Amant
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics

So, this issue is mostly one big fight scene. Seems the Green Goblin’s been busy, and it’s all come back down to Norman Osborn vs. Peter Parker. But unlike that first time the Goblin came back–when it was Mary Jane who was thrown off a bridge, playing on readers’ knowledge of what happened to Gwen in the regular Marvel Universe–this time, it just feels like little more than a ripoff of a two-decades-old Superman story. Yet, it works.

The villain apparently rose…many have fallen, and it’s down to the titular hero to save those around him from said villain.

Face it…the title of the story, the branding of the last few issues of this title and the Ultimate Avengers thing–it gives it all away. Much like knowing weeks before the story even began that Doomsday! was a tale that would end with the death of Superman. It was the journey to get there, watching the hero gradually take more and more of a beating, attempting to dish it back, and ultimately making a final sacrifice to save those he loves from a monster’s rampage.

The story itself–pretty simplistic. I haven’t read the first four chapters of it in this title, and bought (but wound up only skimming) the issue where Peter takes the bullet for Cap….yet, the recap page at the beginning of this issue sum things up pretty succinctly–I don’t need those chapters to “get” this.

The art–maybe not fantastic, but after recently reading the first tpb of the post-Ultimatum Ultimate Comics Spider-ManBagley‘s art–which I’ve always enjoyed and associated with Ultimate Spider-Man–is SUCH a thing of beauty. The characters actually look like I’d expect, as I got used to. The way they looked over the course of all those practically biweekly issues in college and all those TPBs after that when I went back to the series last year and caught up on over 60 issues of story.

As a whole…not truly worth the $3.99 cover price. Not even with that black plastic bag with the hero’s logo in red on it. But y’know? I missed out on Ultimate Spider-Man #1; I wasn’t able to acquire any issues til #4 or so, and was only able to get back to #3. But by and large (I got the first hardcover with those first 13 fantastic issues) I got in at the beginning. So I couldn’t bring myself to entirely “pass” on this ending.

If you’re already buying this title, sticking with the singles after the Ultimatum stuff and the renumbering and the re-renumbering, the changes in art and all that…if you read the earlier chapters of this story…again, face it: you were already going to or have bought this issue already. If you’ve sat things out, wondering at simply waiting for the collected volume: keep to that route. You’ll get a full story. If you’ve avoided this story on principle…hold to it.

This isn’t going to be for everyone. In many ways, I should be appalled at this. To see the character I so enjoyed reading about–and the supporting cast–put in this (albeit fictitious) situation, to see things come to this…it’s horrible. Heart-wrenching. But when you come down to it…this issue makes this version of Peter Parker, Spider-Man, much more real, at least in the moment. We saw his origin. His beginnings. His career. And now, his end.

If you can find this issue, without being taken for a marked-up price…I recommend it. If you’re a lapsed fan of the series, it might be worth getting to be there for the end. If nothing else–consider the collected volume.

Story: 4/10
Art: 9/10
Overall: 7/10

Transformers: Infestation #2 [Mini-Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Rating: 3.5/5

52 Week #52 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: A Year in the Life

Booster and Rip Hunter vs. an evolved Mr. Mind for the fate of the multiverse!

52week52Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Olliffe, and Darick Robertson
Inks: Andy Lanning, Walden Wong, Rodney Ramos, Drew Geraci, Darick Robertson
Colors: Alex Sinclair, David Baron and Hi-Fi
Letters: Ken Lopez
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Special Thanks to: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost stand-alone, in a way. It tells the story of Booster, Rip, & Co. as they battle Mr. Mind, who has evolved and emerged, ready to feed on the multiverse created at the end of Infinite Crisis…a task they’ve apparently been working at for awhile. We’re shown some decent detail as to the nature of the multiverse and its origins, and while I’ve not been following any of the One Year Later books that have mentioned it in any way, it seems a good explanation of things to me, for now.

This issue employs quite the artisitic team, and while it might seem like some scramble to get extra pages in this issue, the story itself provides great contextualization and use of the multiple artists. I enjoyed the shifts in art…and the overall visual tone of this issue was on par with–if not surpassing–the usual…a fine finish that I hold no complaint with.

Story-wise, one can go a couple directions. Plenty of action, though with a fair amount of time-travel and looks to different points of plans that were set in motion previously, this issue lacked a concrete feel of being set in the final week, feeling instead like a special issue chronicling an "untold tale" of a "lost week" or some such. On the other hand, with the other core storylines having wrapped up the last couple months, this was the biggest "loose thread," and a LOT was crammed in, even with 40 pages, detailing its conclusion.

All in all, we get a number of cool moments–and an obvious if unexpected reunion of sorts–with events either tying back to the first issue of this series, or evoking some SERIOUS deja vu. It answers some questions, while leaving other newer questions (no pun intended), and provides what I consider some good, solid comic-book closure. That is, the stories conclude…but the door is in no way slammed shut on things.

Obviously, if you’ve followed the series all that far, there’s no reason NOT to get this issue (those extra pages? Same cover price, even!). And heck, even if you haven’t followed this series all that closely…there’s stuff in this issue that looks like it’ll have some solid repercussions in the months to come throughout the DCU (as well as some explanation given to the nature of the apparent multiverse that’s been brought back), so wouldn’t be a bad issue to nab as a single, even if some smaller moments/subtleties are lost for not having read the series as a whole.

A solid ending to a solid series…

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

52 Week #24 [Review]

Quick Rating: Quite Good!
Story Title: Just Imagine

The rise of the NEW Justice League, what the Martian Manhunter’s been up to, a bit of magic, and the origin of Booster Gold (from the JLA’s archives).

52week24Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Phil Jimenez
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: David Baron
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Assistant Editors: Harvey Richards & Jeanine Schaefer
Edited by: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

The first thing that stands out with this issue is the cover…the flag background seems to be quite similar to the one used for last month’s Justice League of America, perhaps a simple nod to that series and what this issue represents story and history-wise to the overall Justice League. (That Ambush Bug has a shirt reading ‘This Shirt’s a Clue’ is amusing in itself, given all the little clues folks look for that I tend to not "get.")

This issue basically serves to introduce us to the "new" Justice League that’s forming in the absense of the big guns. We also get to see what the Martian Manhunter’s been up to the last few months, and the continuing development of the Ralph/helmet plot.

This issue’s art by Jimenez is great overall, capturing a detailed, clear look at the events of the story and its characters. The bottom-right panel of the first page with Ollie is possibly the best I’ve seen the character look in recent memory (granted, I don’t read the character’s solo title). The visuals just seem to click in this issue, and aside from the occasional apparent shift (go from that panel with Ollie to the 3rd page and compare it visually to Firehawk’s cape/wings/whatever to get what I mean) is very much up there in my list of well-done art that is cool to look at in itself rather than "merely" as a vehicle to suggest imagery for the story being told.

The story itself here runs true-to-form of late for this title…rather than a couple pages here and there for a bunch of simultaneous plots, the core of the issue ("episode," if you want to use the tv analogy) focuses on Firestorm’s Justice League forming (they’re working to recruit Green Arrow as this issue opens), chronicles their first big battle, and sets the stage for events to come. In a way, the plot of the issue is largely simplistic–nothing too terribly deep–but it shows development of events as well as the characters (Firestorm–THIS Firestorm–pulling together a Justice League? Skeets back? Citizen recipients of Luthor’s metahuman treatment springing into action?) Components just fall into place believably, and I think we’re really beginning to see payoff from the foundation the earlier issues worked to lay.

While we don’t see MUCH of the "usual" cast, we continue to see the interactions between the DCU characters active during this year. Though just a couple pages, the Black Adam Family scene would hold very little resonance had we not seen the development of things with Black Adam himself the last 5-6 months, nor the last several months’ development with Isis, and so on.

Following this series from the beginning allows for that deeper "getting" of the overall story…but it by no means excludes one from reading this issue in particular. Even if you’re not following this series, I highly recommend this issue, for the Justice League stuff alone. The closest I came to "discovering" the classic Giffen League initially back in the early 90s was the Doomsday issue. I would love to see a title starring an incarnation such as we see here; I find this League’s story more interesting at the moment than the ‘core’ version with its own title now.

The Origin of Booster Gold
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Andy Lanning
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker

I’m still not terribly thrilled with these origin segments, but growing used to them (as opposed to the initial disappointment of the format), this one’s pretty good. The art’s quite good–I really like Jurgens‘ visuals–and I actually learned something from it. (I suppose that’s another dissatisfaction with other issues’ origins: when it’s a character whose background I’m already quite familiar with, seeing such a boiled-down version is disappointing).

I might’ve said it in an earlier review, but I’ll reiterate it now (and likely again in coming months): I think that while these make for an ok backup feature, I’d rather see a single "special" or one-shot that contained a bunch of these, and get a couple more story-pages per issue in their place.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Transformers: Infestation #1 [Review]

Written by: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by: Nick Roche
Colors by: Joana Lafuente
Lettered by: Robbie Robbins
Edited by: Andy Schmidt
Assistant Editor: Bobby Curnow
Published by: IDW

Galvatron and his Decepticons battle the zombies that have infested the world. Partway into the battle, Optimus Prime and the Autobots arrive. Galvatron insists they stop fighting each other and focus on saving the world…but by way of the Autobots surrendering to him. Once Galvatron is neutralized, we find out that he’s encountered this threat before. As the Autobots consider their next step, they’re ambushed by someone ready, willing, and capable of giving them all a Really Bad Day.

The story seems really simple–robots vs. zombies. Except these robots are the Transformers…familiar figures likely far more familiar to readers than those that kicked off this “event.” It’s quite amusing–and more than fitting–that the leader of the Decepticons would want the Autobots to surrender to him, rather than throwing himself and his followers at mercy of “the good guys” as would be typical for a story like this.

I’m not familiar with this version of the characters–and I can’t help but wonder if Megatron is to Transformers comics what Shredder is to the original Mirage TMNT run. But as with the Infestation issue that kicked off this event…I don’t feel too lost jumping into this issue. Best of all, I still enjoyed this, even not paying much attention to which characters are which. At only 2 issues…we’re only going to get a glimpse into this world of the Transformers.

The art is strong, and seems to capture a bit of the feel of a cartoon as well as being a sort of adaptation of the “angular” take on the characters that doesn’t seem quite as “boxy” as I would expect. Still, no real complaint here, except that Optimus Prime put me in mind of something from Gundam (though in some ways, one humanoid-shaped robot is gonna remind one of another).

I’d sorta expected to see the CVR in this issue, rather than finding the Transformers in the midst of battle with the zombies. Of course, it actually makes sense that they’re not in this issue–they didn’t discover until after it’d been initiated that the Infestation had made it to other worlds, so they’re bound to show up in the next issue to explain things and deal with the threat to this world.

I enjoyed this issue overall, though I think I’ll enjoy it a lot more once the Infestation event is out in its entirety.

I’m quite pleased that this is its own two-issue mini-series: I can follow Infestation into what I assume is current Transformers continuity, but I’m not having to buy random issues of an ongoing series, tossed into the middle of an already-started story. Similarly, I think it’s probably good that being its own series, readers of the ongoing Transformers series are not forced to read the Infestation event or have the ongoing story interrupted for two issues.

Recommended reading. (For readers of the ongoing Transformers, though, I certainly recommend reading Infestation #1 before reading this.)

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

Infestation #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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