Thursday, February 24, 2011

One-paragraph reviews: Detective Comics, Action Comics, Secret Avengers, Abyss: Family Issues

Detective Comics #874
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Francesco Francavilla; DC

When Scott Snyder and Jock took over Detective Comics a few months ago, I was immediately impressed by their work together and have been saying ever since that this is the best Batman ongoing currently being published. With Francesco Francavilla on art, this continues to be true. The story picks up where the back-up featured in the first couple of issues left off. (All back-ups were cut from DC books for their "Drawing the Line" initiative, which saw page counts as well as prices reduced.) The first eight pages of the book feature Commissioner James Gordon and his son sitting at a diner and having a conversation. This may sound like a pretty boring opening, but it's anything but, thanks to both Snyder's dialogue and Francavilla's amazing art and colours. The rest of the book features Batman (Dick Grayson) and Red Robin (Tim Drake) on a little adventure, which follows more directly from the previous story line, with Dick still suffering from the effects of the drug he was infected with last issue. I'm guessing that this part wasn't originally supposed to be drawn by Francavilla, as it seems to be more of a prologue to the story arc that kicks off next issue, with Jock back on the art. While it feels a little disjointed here, it's nice that it provided Francavilla with the opportunity to draw a really cool action sequence in addition to the more noirish material in the James Gordon Jr. story. Presumably, both of these seemingly separate plots will come together in the next arc.


Action Comics #898
Written by Paul Cornell; art by Pete Woods; DC

It makes sense that Larfleeze would show up near the end of this story, since what triggered all of this was Luthor's brief stint in the Orange Lantern Corps during Blackest Night. That fight brings everything full circle as Luthor draws closer to his goal of acquiring new power from the mysterious black orbs. But as has been the case since the beginning of this story, for me the real start of this issue is Robot Lois Lane, the most complicated, fascinating and oddly sympathetic character in the book. We've known for a while now that she's been manipulating Luthor since the beginning, and at the end of this issue it's finally revealed who she's been working for. I won't spoil it, but let's just say it should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention. Surprise is not the point though. What's great is the way this adds depth to her character. Robot Lois is very much her own person - she has a personality and her own will and possibly even feelings. But there are aspects of her programming that force her to be subservient to her "master," even though she resents him for it. My only fear is that her character will be killed (or destroyed) at the end of this story. I think that would be a real waste. She's my favourite new character since Damian Wayne and I think there's a lot of potential for great storytelling with her after this ends. Fingers crossed. (PS: I love Robot Lois's fashion sense. Those head scarves!)


Secret Avengers #10
Written by Ed Brubaker; art by Mike Deodato and Will Conrad; Marvel

The second story arc concludes and I come to the conclusion that this title really does nothing for me. There's really nothing terribly wrong with the story or with the art or with the characters. I'm just not interested in any of it. I don't really care what happens. I've been reading this for 10 issues waiting for something to really grab me and make want look forward to the next issue, but it's just not happening. I'm dropping this, but I'm not giving it a "DROP" rating, because I think my lack of interest has a lot to do with the fact that this is Marvel and I'm not really invested in any of these characters. (On the other hand, if this was really good, it should have made me like these characters enough to keep reading, no?)


Abyss: Family Issues #1
Written by Kevin Rubio; art by Alfonso Ruiz; Red 5

I wanted to give this title a try because the premise sounded good and while I haven't read the previous mini-series (or volume, as Red 5 calls them), this seemed like an easy enough jump-on point. While the story isn't very original, with the right execution this would've been easily overlooked. Unfortunately, neither the writing nor the art rise to the challenge. The attempts at humour fall completely flat and a lot of the exposition is clunky (and jokey editor's notes about the necessity of this exposition don't really make up for the clunkiness). But it's the art that really kills it. Some of the sequences are difficult to follow because the continuity between panels is unclear. Faces are inconsistent and there's a general lack of detail in the backgrounds. A long scene in the middle of the issue features two characters sitting in a room having a conversation, which is the kind of thing that an artist like Francesco Francavilla (see Detective Comics review above) can make visually interesting, but here it's just boring and repetitive. The most offensive part, though, is the obvious photoshopping of photographs found online and planted in the background. I think it happens throughout the issue, but it was most jarring in the scene at Stanford University, where a quick Google Image search allowed me to find the exact photo that was being swiped:

(Click to enlarge)

This is just incredibly lazy and, frankly, kind of insulting. I would have expected more from Red 5, considering how awesome their Atomic Robo titles are - hilariously funny, original and featuring consistently strong art. I was hoping for something similar and I really wanted to like this, but Abyss: Family Issues just isn't any good. (The publisher provided a PDF of this issue for my review.)



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