Friday, 23 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Superman/Young Justice

Blue Beetle
reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

The name of Blue Beetle for me carries a few expectations, and I have to admit I was (perhaps unfairly) expecting a title with a slightly tongue in cheek style and a reasonably light-hearted tone, but from the epic space faring prologue, this is a series that looks set to establish a serious and meaningful identity.

Following this galaxy spanning beginning the action shifts focus to present day Earth as we witness two concurrent storylines. Firstly, we are introduced to our endearing but unremarkable protagonists, Texas high-school kids Joey, Paco and Brenda while at the same time a cabal of evil meta-humans seek an artefact which is revealed to be the Blue Beetle parasite that fell to Earth centuries ago. Given the build-up from the prologue and the true nature of this parasite, this sets up a nice source of tension as our protagonists head off to a party and an inevitable collision course with danger and potential tragedy.

Writer Tony Bedard clearly writes the young cast with affection, but the high school troubles our trio experience seem fairly run of the mill, and while likeable, their story doesn’t quite grip me as a reader. By the end of the issue, Joey, the most vulnerable of the teens steps up to the plate and shows hidden depth and strength that clearly mark him out to be the stuff of superheroes. Given what we learn from the prologue about the Blue Beetle parasite, this might introduce some much needed personal risk into our hero’s life, but for now there is nothing sufficiently interesting about the story to hook me on the basis of one issue.

Having said that, the look of this book is gorgeous. The art team of Ig Guara and Ruy Jose do a stunning job, providing brash and swooping action, while paying plenty of attention to the details. Guara’s pencils do seem a little scratchy during the quieter moments, but this feature does add to the frenetic, almost crackling with energy feel of the explosive action. The overall look of the characters and settings too is like a breath of fresh air, and the setting, whether outer space, or the open spaces of Texas helps the book establish a mood of its own, slightly removed from the largely urban DCU.

Overall, I like this book, but it isn’t quite essential reading. It could be the perfect introduction for new or younger readers to jump on board and find a new adventure without the weight of history behind it, but it hasn’t yet shown anything that has made me sit up and take notice.

Legion of Super-Heroes
reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

Legion Of Super-Heroes #1 puts me in two minds. Having just finished the inaugural issue of the re-launched title by writer Paul Levitz and artist Francis Portela, part of me feels a little overwhelmed with the sheer scope of the universe described within. The other part feels like I’ve just been introduced to a potential new love, so striking and confident is this introduction.

Having been largely unfamiliar with the history of the Legion prior to this re-launch, I get the impression that this issue will certainly be a treat for established fans. There are few concessions as we are introduced to a diverse team of 31st century meta-humans with an obvious shared history, several plot strands and tantalising hints of a recent tragedy, but thankfully Levitz provides enough to entice and intrigue newcomers with a mixture of dynamic team interaction and explosive stand offs all guided by a script that is dense but witty enough to hold the interest.

The future setting and planet hopping action are brought to vivid life by Portela’s artwork, which is slightly exaggerated, but cohesive and convincing. Visually interesting and showcasing a deft touch for alien foliage and expressive features alike, the attention to detail is impressive without distracting the focus from where it ought to be. Special mention must also go to colourist Javier Mena who manages to bring an already visually busy book to life with vivid colours that really transport the reader away from the everyday DCU, which is almost dreary by comparison.

My first impression of this book was that there is almost too much for the casual fan to be hooked on the basis of one issue, and while for me that is usually the sign of a book that has missed the mark, I slowly find myself wanting to re-read this issue, the maybe read some past Legion titles, and the re-read last week’s sister title ‘Legion Lost’, and…you get the idea. Long story short, I think my pull list has just increased by a Legion or two!

reviewed by Kate Townshend

Poor Supergirl. I’ll admit that when I received my trio of review comics this week, I was way more excited about reading about the women than the girls.

Typical, I had already decided, that while Superman gets to be a man, Supergirl is stuck in a state of pseudo-adoloescence. The sexism!

Except that, actually, because this DC version of the eponymous heroine really, honestly *is* a girl, it’s an awful lot less offensive. She’s a teenager who stumbles through the opening issue with no idea what’s going on and an overwhelming desire for her Mum and Dad to show up and save her. It makes her strangely endearing. Even more so as she struggles with power and potential that are enormous, but don’t seem to be entirely under her control.

The story itself is linear and unencumbered by flashes around in time or place, so we suffer along with Kara, with no more definite knowledge about what’s going on than she has.

There are robots and explosions aplenty though, if that’s enough to sway anyone in the direction of giving this a whirl. And they lend themselves to the artwork, which is epic and thus a little sparse. It’s saved from mediocrity by the emotional emphasis and attention paid to Supergirl’s facial expressions. She’s at the centre of this story and it shows.

It’s a funny one really, because a part of me feels that I ought to like Supergirl more than I do. Unfortunately though, it’s just lacking impact or pizzazz or whatever je ne sais quoi is required to make a comic sing. Solid but not exciting. A little bit like, dare I say it, her famous cousin.

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