New Comic Book Day has come and gone, which means I have some comics to review. Here goes- Beware of Spoilers.
Secret Empire #10
(Nick Spencer & Steve McNiven)
For better or for worse, Secret Empire is finally over. If you came into this event hating it, this issue won’t change your mind. But if you found redeeming qualities throughout it, you might just be satisfied by this finale.
First things first- visually, this is an extremely pleasing issue. McNiven’s clear, stark visuals are perfect for this event, and it’s a shame he only gave us two issues because Sorrentino’s muddy art certainly weakened some of the earlier issues and this series needed all the help it could get. McNiven juggles smaller character moments with bombastic, giant action sequences and homages which do a lot to bring heart back to this book. Be aware that he is supported by a pretty substantial team of B-artists beyond the glorious dream sequences by Rod Reis, but I didn’t find it too distracting.
As for the plot, it’s pleasing enough but can’t help but fall flat. While the ending is satisfying, it is predictable and basically what everyone said would happen from the start. Aside from the Winter Soldier’s pleasantly brilliant plan, things happen almost robotically according to genre tropes, and the warm fuzziness of the ending can’t wipe away the mischaracterization and insensitivity which had marred the event as a whole.
Secret Empire #10 did its job well enough, but was far from perfect. However, when compared to some of Marvel’s other events, I can’t help but feel it stuck the landing.
Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Alpha #1
(George Mann, Cavan Scott, & Rachael Stott)
I boarded several of the Doctor Who comics when they debuted a few years ago but quickly exited shortly thereafter. As much as I love Doctor Who, I felt the actor’s eclectic personalities and well-loved quirks didn’t translate well enough to comics to justify a $3.99 pricetag, but I’ve nevertheless returned once or twice for characters or concepts I find interesting. And so I reentered the TARDIS to see the latest multi-Doctor event, hoping that my misgivings would be proven wrong by the Ninth/Twelfth Doctor meeting I was desperate to see.
Firstly, jumpy as the script was (and as jumpy as you would expect it to be, with four protagonists in very different settings) I enjoyed this issue a lot more than I expected to. There was a good heart to it, a story involving Twelve, Bill, and Nardole with ties to a narrative involving (Spoilers!) the Doctor’s Daughter and Captain Jack Harkness. Though Mann and Scott mischaracterize Twelve as a bit more physical than Capaldi portrays him, his first meeting with Jenny is still enjoyable and helps make the ensuing mystery more fascinating, Bill’s rashness aside.
Stott gives an enjoyable, if stiff, showing this time around, fixing some of the globbiness (for lack of a better word) I’ve observed in the past and gelling well with some of the guest artists which roll through. While Stott isn’t a household name, I feel she should be- there’s a great depth to her characters I think the Big Two could use.
All in all, the Lost Dimensions Alpha is a fantastic first go which might actually tempt me to pick up the rest of the event.
Uncanny Avengers #26
(Jim Zub & Sean Izaakse)
It’s always a relief when a comic I love returns to its regularly scheduled programming post-event, especially when it packs such great character moments. I loved Uncanny Avengers under Remender, and Duggan gradually wore me over, and Zub looks to be the best of the bunch- blending both takes on the team to form a more cohesive vision of Avengers/X-Men/Inhumans unity.
Uncanny Avengers has always functioned best as a character study, and this issue has a lot of great character moments. That’s not to say there isn’t action- there is, though it is a tad dull- but the characters, from the Wasp to the Human Torch to Rogue, really make the book pop.
Uncanny Avengers has always been great, and it’s only getting better with its new creative team.
X-Men: Blue #10
(Cullen Bunn & Giovanni Valetta)
Since the time displaced X-Men have arrived in Marvel continuity, I have had a love-hate relationship with them. Though an intriguing idea in concept was benefited by a strong start, All-New X-Men Volume One quickly devolved into an out-of-character crossover Hell, while Volume Two just sort of meandered around without many forward strides. Unfortunately, while X-Men: Blue’s first few issues showed signs of improvement, I’m finding myself increasingly pessimistic about the series’ prospects.
Most of the characters seem to be stuck in a holding pattern- Magneto plotting, Jean angsting about her future and trying to be different, Bobby missing Romeo, and Hank meddling with dark forces. Jimmy is literally without memories or personality, Angel is just sort of flying there, and Scott, so well-served in Champions and his deceased solo series, can’t help but feel flat in comparison to what came before. The great team dynamic and fancy new digs can’t do much to elevate this, even with the welcome additions of X-Factor teammates Danger and Polaris.
Bunn has a lot of explaining to do, and some hurdles to overcome, but he has the makings of a great book right here. I genuinely hope he pulls things through.
Justice League of America #13
(Steve Orlando & Ivan Reis)
Ivan Reis is back to finally explore the mystery of Ray Palmer, which means two of JLA’s biggest selling points have made their triumphant return. If anything, though, these returns really underscore just how little this book has lived up to its potential.
Reis’ art is first and foremost, as beautiful and mythical as ever. Expertly, Reis balances the character moments with the shocking and whimsical imagery of the Microverse astonishingly well. This is, admittedly, a selling point- if a bittersweet one, since we know this is Reis’ second and final arc on the book.
The story, meanwhile, is the same as it’s ever been- good ideas not quite clicking, as great characterizations don’t quite gel into a cohesive team. Maybe this team will improve once Batman leaves, but I can’t quite help but feel like while we know the characters as individuals only a few hold relationships to each other.
Anyway, despite my problems with the series as a whole this is a pretty solid issue. Even if it is the last good one for a while, it’s worth skimming if you care about any of these characters or concepts.