Wednesday, 28 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Justice League

reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

As a relative newcomer to the world of Aquaman, I came to writer Geoff Johns’ new take on the character with few preconceptions, other than a sense of boyish excitement at the prospect of some old-school super-heroics from a bona-fide product of comics’ Golden Age. Having just finished part one of new series opener ‘The Trench’, I’m suitably thrilled.

This book’s strength lies in its fine balance of action and characterisation. Aquaman, Emperor of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, commands the power of the sea and its inhabitants, but behind the regal bearing is an all too human hero. After an opening that establishes his super-hero credentials in fine style, the issue slowly reveals a man who is misunderstood and mocked by the world he strives to protect. A refreshing reflection of the modern attitude towards Aquaman amongst most comic book readers.

Johns’ script is sparing, but the minimalist approach is not at the expense of depth and instead allows Ivan Reis and Joe Prado’s glorious artwork to take centre stage. Showcasing a staggering range, every page is vibrant and dynamic, flowing effortlessly in series of wide cinematic panels that are still packed with intricate detail, with the quieter moments displaying a true flair for character and stunning, naturalistic settings.

As silly as the concept could be, this take on Aquaman is nothing if not epic and full of potential drama, as our hero yearns to lead a normal life while reluctantly facing up to his legendary birthright. And although the fearsome, primal threat lurking in the shadows of the titular ocean trench is beautifully teased, Johns’ wisely keeps them to the background for now, instead concentrating on fleshing out one of the New 52’s more interesting leading men.

Aquaman turns 70 this week, but despite his age, he’s leading the charge for DC’s New 52 with a title as fresh and dynamic as the very best this re-launch has to offer. Hold your breath and dive right in, you won’t regret it.

The Flash
reviewed by Ben Fardon

The Flash. The Flash Fastest Man Alive. The Flash Rebirth. The Flash (again). Flashpoint. Wow, quickly thinking about it - DC has had quite a few goes at relaunching the Scarlet Speedster in the past decade.

And so here we are again. The Flash #1. Taking over from Geoff Johns must be a daunting task, though I have to say Rebirth and the following short lived ongoing series never really grabbed me, which is odd as I'm usually a huge fan of Johns work.

Here instead we have previous series' artist Francis Manapul taking over the writing duties whilst retaining the role of penciller. Colourist Brain Buccellato is the co-writer. The pencils are evocative and dynamic and the page layouts are sublime. Special mention has to go to the new costume which bursts from the ring in pieces ahead of Barry - he then runs into them and they form around him into the suit. It's a wonderful idea that will look amazing if it is ever realised on the big screen. It's beautifully showcased on the variant cover too! That said the colours themselves are oddly muted. I'd think brighter colours would better compliment the world of the Fastest Man Alive, so I think this is a bit of a misstep.

Aside form that though, this is probably the best first issue of The Flash I've read. Cleaner than the mess that dogged The Flash Rebirth and more compelling than the previous Flash ongoing, here we have an almost perfect mix of character development and action. Things have definitely changed for Barry in the reboot - having never been married to Iris we instead find him dating a co-worker called Patty. Iris is still present though, as a zealous young reporter creating a potential love triangle as the series develops. Older Flash fans may bemoan the change, but for me - since both women seem to be real characters rather than romantic interludes - it's a welcome dramatic complication in this instance.

Elsewhere the Flash encounters a gang of tech thieves stealing from a symposium and in his efforts to apprehend one member of the gang, he ends up throwing the criminal through a plate glass window. Seemingly killed on impact a shocked Barry is further stunned to learn the masked man is actually an old friend. Haunted, he sets out to investigate the evidence and work the case, only to be stunned when the dead man makes an unexpected return.

To see any more would ruin your enjoyment of this fantastic first issue. Run to your local shop and grab a copy today!

The Fury of Firestorm
reviewed by Matt Puddy

My knowledge and exposure to Firestorm, at best, is limited. I met the character whilst reading through Brightest Day when “they” clashed with Deathstorm and that really piqued my interest. As a character that I’ve never seen as a standalone title I was more than interested and wanted to take a peek.

Immediately the first thing you get is a massively vibrant cover. Firestorm is always been full of reds and yellows but on this occasion the crayons have definitely been worn to the nub. It’s great and so full of detail, typical of Ethan van Sciver.

What is different though as well as is that this has been written by Gail Simone but co-mapped and plotted with Sciver too. Simone has a huge association with female characters and van Sciver is prominent in artwork so the combination is not something I expected.

Saying that though, the issue felt really good and as a starting point it was easy to get into. There was a healthy skipping between a fraught first few meetings of our main protagonists and, on a collision course, a ruthless band of mercenaries on a killing spree. The story has kept its heritage and acknowledges Professor Stein which alludes to it being after Brightest Day.

What I’ve also liked is that it appears that van Sciver's influence has also been seen in the form that this takes as we are given a whole new direction for Firestorm. This is the first time that each of the heroes involved are their own individual Firestorms, as well as a new twist and the introduction of Fury.

Admittedly I was a little wary of this title but after reading it I have to say that it was all without weight. I loved it and will enjoy following it especially as on my second read you see so much more and so many little hints at further things to come. Exciting? Yes. Grabbing? Yes. Pull list? YES!

The Savage Hawkman
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Carter Hall is an interesting man, a contradiction in terms almost, but interesting none the less.

As an archaeologist he chases and seeks out the mysteries of the past. However, as a man he is depicted as running from it as he knows all about his own reincarnations. In trying to cast off the shroud of Hawkman, Tony Daniel takes the Hawkman story to a new level. Daniel also introduces a new villain in the guise of Morphicius.

Daniel has written a good story to support Hall in his personal struggling, both internal and external, and the story moves smoothly along. My problem is where it moves to.

As the story progresses and develops we see an enemy which is a black liquid which envelops and changes men as well as Carter's armour coming from within. For a new reader, or a devout DC (and only DC) follower this may not be a problem but for those who read Marvel titles then this immediately screams Venom and Iron Man respectively. It’s something I found a definite distraction which certainly took the edge off of the ending for me as my mind was directed elsewhere.

Philip Tan has used a style that I am not normally fond of, however, I have to say on this occasion with the combined inking of Sunny Gho something beautiful has been created. There are times when this slips a little but on the big moments even more detail and care is taking making for punchy and distinct moments.

I liked reading the issue but this is another character I tend not to associate with being a standalone. Enjoyable as the issue is, it’s not one I think I would follow. It’s a good jump on point for readers and has plenty of potential but I just don’t personally feel a draw to it.

Still well worth taking a look at, especially for the artwork, and Daniel has fine pedigree, I’ll just give this one a miss.

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