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Shadowman #12 [Review]

shadowman012Deadside Blues; Lucky Charm; Blackout

Writers: Ales Kot, Christopher Sebela, Duffy Boudreau
Art: Cafu, Matthew Southworth, Diego Bernard, Alejandro Sicat
Colors: Andy Troy, Jose Villarrubia, Ian Hannin
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover Art: Dave Johnson and Kekai Kotaki
Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve kinda lost the “flow” of this Shadowman title. Seems we’ve had a definite interruption of the ongoing story: a #0 issue, a “Halloween special,” and now this 3-complete-stories issue, as we await a new creative team that’s taking over.

While I’m all about done-in-one stories, self-contained issues, having 3 such stories in one regular-sized issue is a bit much (or short, depending on how one looks at it). These three seem rather slice-of-life; the simple stuff that’s not that big a challenge. They can’t be a big challenge–there’re only a handful of pages to get to the end of the situation as presented!

Given three stories, I’m not bothered by three visual styles in the issue. None of ’em particularly blew me away, but none struck me as annoying or hard to follow. Solid art doing what the art should do.

The stories themselves are a handful of pages apiece. Nothing particularly wrong with any of them–they all offer a touch of insight into Shadowman. They definitely make this feel like a “filler” issue…I’d’ve much rathered see these presented in place of multi-page “previews” in the back of Valiant‘s books. Original COMPLETE shorts to introduce non-readers of Shadowman to the character, and provide some incentive to Shadowman readers to maybe grab another issue. (Easy enough to suggest as a fan currently buying any/all Valiant singles).

Taken as a whole, I found the issue fairly mediocre. Not bad, but not wonderful; for the moment nothing in it seems particularly germane to anything ongoing. If you’re following the series and not inclined to skip issues, this is worth getting and reading. Though it stands alone in and of itself, readers would likely benefit quite a bit with context from having read earlier issues. If you’re looking for a jumping-in point, it seems the next issue will be the spot to do so.

If I wasn’t currently “all-in” on the Valiant books…I’m pretty sure I’d call it a day for now on the series, myself. As-is, I’m hoping this new creative team picks things up and runs next issue and shows me that I actively want to keep up with this title rather than passively “not drop” it.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #4 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent
Story Title: From Beyond

Dox’s team is coming together, and the villain is revealed!

REBELS Cv4 dsWriter: Tony Bedard
Penciller: Claude St. Aubin
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Swands
Asst. Editor: Rex Ogle
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Cover: Ed Benes and Rob Hunter
Publisher: DC Comics

Dox’s team is coming together, and we as readers find out a bit more about what’s set current events into motion, and who it was that took over LEGION.

The story feels like it’s loaded with potential, particularly on the cosmic side of the DCU; drawing from older characters and concepts but placing them well within current events of continuity and whatnot. However, even four issues in, I’m not really feeling like I have much to care about with these characters nor their situations. The "main villain" for this arc is one of my least-favorite in the DCU, and even being revamped a bit visually still doesn’t interest me. I’m not familiar enough with these characters to know how their depiction here works with prior versions of them, but they do seem consistent within this series, at least. We’re only four issues in, so hopefully a lot of this is simply foundation-laying, building toward some solid payoff in the near future.

The visuals maintain a nice consistency from earlier issues (even with a different artist). Visually, I can’t help but feel that this is to "cosmic DC" what the earlier issues of the 2003-launched Outsiders series was to the more traditional DCU. The art may not be for everyone, but as what it is, it certainly works for this book and gives it a style that sets it apart from a lotta other books.

Bedard seems to have a good grasp of the cosmic stuff, and if you’re a fan of his stories or of the old LEGION characters, this book’s probably right up your alley. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem like anything terribly essential as yet.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

R.E.B.E.L.S. #3 [Review]

Quick Rating: OK
Story Title: A World of Hurt

Dox continues to assemble his grouping of individuals to assist reclamation of his former organization…with little regard for his methods, focusing on the end result.

rebels003Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Swands
Asst. Editor: Rex Ogle
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Cover: Andy Clarke
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue continues to show Dox as he acts on the information he’s been given, but doesn’t really let anyone else in on it. He’s building a new team, focused on the final result and apparently not all that concerned about what steps he’s gotta take to achieve it. After changing someone into an energy-being, Dox heads off with her to see some old allies and recruit them–after explaining that he did not orchestrate the attacks on them that they recently survived. Ultimately, they find that they face quite a formidable foe.

The art on this is quite good, and very consistent with the earlier issues. Its style fits the story, while adding its own "flavor" to the overall product. There’s a sort of dirtiness to it that contributes to the atmosphere, setting this apart from other books visually.

You could do much worse than this book, but then, I’m also finding myself quickly losing interest. While the nostalgia factor prompted my initial interest in the book, I’m not finding these characters to be familiar to me (other than by name/concept), and really not connecting or engaging with ’em. Something about this story feels like it will be much better when read as a complete arc, but on the issue by issue basis, I’m just not feelin’ it.

I suppose if you’re enough of a fan of the writer or artist this’d be worthwhile; ditto if you’re particularly interested in or informed as far as the characters go. As a casual reader, this doesn’t really seem to be anything essential.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 2.5/5

R.E.B.E.L.S. #2 [Review]

Quick Rating: Not Bad
Story Title: The First Recruit

Vril Dox and Supergirl take on the mercenaries, while Dox finds out more about his benefactor and what he’s expected to do moving forward.

rebels002Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Swands
Asst. Editors: Rex Ogle
Editors: Marts & Cunningham
Cover: Andy Clarke
Publisher: DC Comics

Resuming where the first issue left off, we find Vril Dox and Supergirl fighting the mercenaries that are trying to capture Dox. Dox finds himself faced with a message from the future intended to help him, but opts to use his own methods to go about attaining his goals. Making for Starhaven, Dox’s recruitment drive is in full effect, as we see that this is not a character we’re meant to like overall–he’s a real jerk (to put it mildly).

The story itself isn’t bad, though I’m not all that familiar with most of the characters overall (except Supergirl). Though I recognize Dox and a couple others, I don’t recognize most of the characters, and so am not all that interested. The writing seems solid so far–there’s enough foreshadowing that at least for this arc, it seems there’s a build toward some decent payoff–though I’d prefer to be more engaged in the story.

The art’s not bad, though it’s a bit different than what I’m used to, particularly on the Superman family of books and their depiction of Supergirl. Clarke’s art does bring just enough grittiness to make this seem like a book that doesn’t just fit in general into a generic DCU, but has an edge that reminds me of the earlier issues of Outsiders from 2003 to Infinite Crisis.

All in all, a decent book. Unfortunately, as it’s failed so far to really engage me, I suspect I wouldn’t miss it much (if at all) if I simply skipped it. If you’re interested in the cosmic stuff, you’ll probably enjoy this a bit more; ditto if you’re more familiar with Vril Dox as a character.

Ratings:

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

R.E.B.E.L.S. #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent
Story Title: The Future is Now

Vril Dox (Brainiac 2) arrives on Earth with pursuers on his tail, and seeks out Supergirl for a special purpose even he doesn’t know.

rebels001Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editors: Siegel & Ogle
Editors: Marts & Cunningham
Covers: Andy Clarke
Publisher: DC Comics

This is the second time offhand that I have bought a R.E.B.E.L.S. #1. The last time I did so was way back around September 1994. L.E.G.I.O.N. was rebooted during Zero Hour as R.E.B.E.L.S., and was one of the series I’d decided to jump on to check it out from the very beginning. Fourteen-and-one-half years later, this new incarnation of the title had my curiosity, if only for nostalgic value.

This issue opens with a bit of a cliche–people going about normal life, talking about something that then sorta comes true with the arrival of an alien or whatever (in this case, Vril Dox), who asks for something rather simple that I for one normally wouldn’t expect an alien to ask: "Where’s the nearest restroom?" We quickly find out that Dox is being pursued, that his own organization has been taken from him and is now being used against him. Being rather cool and calculating (or rather, not-so-compassionate) he is prepared to see numerous human lives lost to attain his goal. Once Supergirl enters the fray, a couple secrets come out, and we find that there is a good deal at play, just waiting to be revealed.

Overall, I like Clarke’s visuals in this issue. There’s a certain level of detail and a style that seems to fit the story very well. The main complaint I have is that Supergirl looks a little "off," but characters I presume will be main/starring characters for this title have a good look about them that does NOT seem "off." One of the aliens reminds me a bit of both the Aliens as well as Arkillo from the GL books, and yet still has enough of a unique look to be its own thing, while evoking those others–regardless of the intentionality of the similarity.

The story is fairly basic, dealing with a bit of cliche–at least on the surface. Cliche or otherwise, there are some hints dropped as to stuff-to-come, and at least one bombshell drawn from existing continuity that casts characters in a new light. I’ve not read much of Bedard’s work, but recall liking what I have read. This issue really–aside from Supergirl–is playing in its own sandbox away from other DCU books. That sets it apart for me as it is not directly involved in other current stories that I’m following and thus has room to develop and build a bit.

There’s not enough here in this issue to convince me that this’ll be a great title nor that I’ll want to be in for the long haul, but there’s just enough of something to it that I’ll probably give it a couple more issues to pan out and really hook me. In the meantime, it’s a debut issue of a new series and it’s still within my $3 general threshold.

Worth checking out if you’re curious, but doesn’t seem an essential read.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

X-Factor #2 [Review]

classicreviewlogowhiteQuick Rating: Good
Title: Star Power

Summary: The fate of Rictor, Madrox confronts his dupe, Layla makes herself useful, and things progress on their course…

xfactor002 Writer:
Peter David
Pencils: Ryan Sook & Dennis Callero
Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger & Dennis Callero
Colors: Jose Villarrubia
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Production: Brad Johansen
Asst. Editors: Molly Lazer & Aubrey Sitterson
Editor: Andy Schmidt
Cover Art: Ryan Sook
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Marvel‘s recap page works particularly well here, as it not only recaps the previous issue, but shows (I think full-sized) the central point of the final page of # 1…and though we cut immediately to a "meanwhile," it brings the reader back in enough to have that bit of tension necessary for when we get to the fate of Rictor, who was unceremoniously shoved off the edge of a building by one of Jamie’s dupes in the previous issue.

Layla Miller integrates herself into the team, proving some immediate usefulness, though her explanation for knowing things seems to get on Guido’s nerves. We get a glimpse at the "bad guys" orchestrating some behind-the-scenes events, and a mysterious figure that I’m not even going to try guessing at the identity.

Overall, this issue picks up the threads of the previous issue, and advances the story a bit–resolving a key point of that issue, as well as introducing new elements to the main story, and setting things up for future issues. If the issue seems a bit choppy, it’s from juggling Rictor’s fate, X-Factor HQ, Jamie and confronting his dupe, and other elements of the story in the confines of a single, regular-sized comic. Despite that, fans of these characters–and present writer Peter David–will likely find little complaint other than the next issue not being out yet.

The art works well with the story, keeping a visual/stylistic difference from "standard fare" X-stuff, as well as the noir tone the story carries.

A brief exchange between a couple characters provides an interesting meta-textual commentary on the tile of the "Decimation" event this title is a part of, both addressing reader concerns of no thought going to it as well as providing a jab at the media.

On the whole, this is another fine issue of a fairly distinctive title. If you don’t care about any of the characters or the writer (or the art team), then don’t expect to like it. However, if you enjoy PAD‘s writing, and/or the characters, or even just the art on these particular characters, you will very likely enjoy the issue.
If you’re just curious about things, this is just the second issue–shouldn’t be too hard to locate a copy of the first issue (in whatever print edition) and jump on the ride. Recommended.

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

Joker’s Asylum II: Killer Croc #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

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

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