Her·o·ine (noun \ˈher-ə-wən, ˈhir-, ˈhe-rə-\) - 1:a. A mythological or legendary woman having the qualities of a hero. b. A woman admired and emulated for her achievements and qualities.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Scarlet #1 - #3
Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

I wanted to wait a bit before reviewing Scarlet because I wanted to give her a chance to develop. It’s sad to say that I'm still having trouble getting behind this comic.

Scarlet is writer Brian Bendis' newest creator-owned work, and although I believe it’s success is largely a case of the story rising above its thin premise, it's definitely different from everything else out there. It follows a young woman who sees the man she loves get killed by a crooked police officer.

When the "system" protects the policeman, she decides to change the world by taking on the corruption herself. As a result, in the first three issues of this comic we've now seen her kill three police officers. When you throw in the noir atmosphere and crisp dialogue that Bendis and Maleev have mastered, the series becomes more interesting than its basic premise. (Not to mention the character’s tendency to break the fourth wall and talk directly to the readers)

We've seen crooked cops in fiction before, and we've seen revenge killings, but the problem here is that we're only seeing part of the story and questions quickly arise concerning the character’s trustworthiness, as well as how Bendis plans on making the readers active participants in the story. (The protagonist repeatedly tells readers to get involved, but is that really possible?)

One part that is fantastic is the art by Alex Maleev - it's a combination of near-photographic images with a painted style that's like no other. It's amazing work.

For me, the jury continues to be out on this comic. For the art alone, I'm hanging around a few more issues. Hopefully, by then Bendis will give us some satisfactory answers because it’s those lingering questions that keep the series from exploding into fully formed life. As of now, the series reads more like an interesting experiment than an actual worthwhile story.

Supergirl #58
Written by Sterling Gates with pencils by Jamal Igle and inks by Jon Sibal

This issue isn’t the usual hero vs villain business. Instead, it's a story in which Supergirl joins journalist Cat Grant to track down whoever is kidnapping kids off the streets of Metropolis. The mystery has special resonance for Cat, as her son Adam was murdered by the Toyman (later needlessly retconned into a Toyman robot). The situation gives Kara a chance to learn why Cat hates her, and Cat an opportunity to hear Kara's point of view.

The Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle creative teaming ends after next issue and it’s sad to see them go. The people Gates writes and the relationships he fosters are among the most real in comics and they benefit hugely from the skills of Igle, whose storytelling choices are always spot-on, and followed through with style. Where lazy creators repeat panel after panel for talking heads scene, Gates and Igle like things more animated.

Gates and Igle have defined Supergirl for the modern era and while they're in the final stretch, they're not coasting. This month's mood is far from that of previous issues, but because characters are so well defined, we can comfortably plug into something different. Even Cat is allowed admirable qualities, such as her mother's devotion, and reporter's courage in entering her apartment when she knows the villain is likely to be inside.

The most intense scene of the issue is the Arkham Asylum interview with Winslow Schott, the toymaker turned menace. Having received creepy dolls on the days children vanish, Cat quite reasonably suspects he's behind the disappearances. However, the real villain appears (back from an earlier in the series) in just a single panel, but makes a big impression. (Yes, I could tell you more, but this comic book deserves extra readers - if you've some spare pennies, and haven't tried Supergirl as of late, give it a go.)

My only criticism is about the cover. The cover illustration by Amy Reeder, colored by Guy Major, is certainly gorgeous, but it doesn't do this issue justice. Smiley Supergirl is suited to a poster book or a first issue. But this issue's change of pace story should be represented on the cover to let potential buyers know there's a different flavor to the drama inside.
Birds of Prey #6
Written by Gail Simone with pencils by Alvin Lee and Adriana Melo
Overall, I've enjoyed the return of "Birds of Prey" courtesy Gail Simone. But with the "Two Nights in Bangkok" two-parter, the book has felt a bit off-kilter and it's hard to peg why.
The previous issue had felt slightly rushed, and this issue unfortunately continues that trend. We have a random background character suddenly turn into a trusted ally that's willing to switch sides at the drop of a hat, and it feels out of the blue, like this was part of a larger story that got trimmed down along the way. And the conclusion of Black Canary being forced to fight Lady Shiva to the death, likewise, is sped up and thrown on the table in the blink of an eye. It's not a bad solution, but it shows up in a hurried manner and is just as easily accepted, feeling rather anti-climactic. Simone is normally great on her pacing (recent issues of "Secret Six" being a prime example) so for this not quite working it a slight surprise. And with half of the cast (Oracle, Hawk, Dove) being sidelined to just two pages this issue, it's not helping "Birds of Prey" feel like a team book in the slightest.
On the bright side, there are some good bits in "Birds of Prey" #6 that stand out. Huntress giving her speech to Lady Shiva is the strongest scene in the book, although Huntress' narration in general is entertaining. For a character that seems to be a cast off and throwaway under other writers, she gets a chance to genuinely shine in "Birds of Prey" and I appreciate the work that Simone's put into her character. And even though they're barely in the book, Oracle's closing comment about Hawk is great fun, and makes me hope that he'll get something to do in upcoming issues so we can see more of Simone's take on the character. (Why come back from the dead if they're just going to sit around and twiddle thumbs?)
Even with the extra month, Alvin Lee and Adriana Melo's pencils don't look as strong as they normally do. The women look remarkably flimsy here, like a stiff breeze could blow them over; considering these women include Huntress, Black Canary, and Lady Shiva, that's exactly the wrong image they should be projecting. Hair is also suddenly prone to pulling into large locks and then having them all repel one another, like there's a massive case of static electricity going on. (I suppose the lack of conditioner is providing this rather unique hair style, because my other theory involving wind from a Stevie Nicks concert stage is even less likely.) The worst thing, though? The characters are often all drawn alike. There's a scene where Huntress is pulling on her outfit while Lady Blackhawk and Black Canary are standing behind her. If it wasn't for the outfits (and Huntress having a different hair color), there's no visual difference to tell the three apart.
I enjoyed the first four issues of "Birds of Prey," so this two-parter has ultimately been a disappointment. I'm not going to write off the book — this feels like it's the exception to the rule — but I am glad it's over, and starting next month Ardian Syaf comes on board to help the title move forward. This is a comic that we ultimately expect a lot more from.

Uncanny X-Men #529
Written by Mat Fraction. Pencils by Whilce Portacio with Harvey Tolibao

The "Five Lights" storyline continues as Hope and gang find the fourth light and Emma Frost tries to make up for past sins by sneaking Sebastian Shaw out of Utopia with the help of Fantomex.

This was the first issue in a while that left me feeling disappointed. It was more of an in-between issue to set up the story for the Generation Hope mini series than anything else. The fourth “light,” Teon, is a laughable character that storms the scene with animalistic urges. Fight, flight, and mate are his only emotions and words.

It’s been a few years since there was a fresh mutant character, something original or at least intriguing, and we are given Teon—a dog on two legs? A throwaway character like Teon degrades the significance of Hope as the savior of the mutant race and the importance of the “Second Coming” story arc. I really expected the five lights to bring something grand to the X-Men but now I am not so sure. But I digress.

This issue’s real appeal was in Emma Frost’s story and development. Fraction really tapped into the essence of her character and has made her better than ever by heightening her angst, fear, and sorrow. The dialogue among Emma Frost, Fantomex, and Kitty Pryde regarding her significance as a person and the pain she has endured are brilliant and reveals a part of Frost that I was convinced didn’t exist. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought so as Danger reveals that is let Emma take Sebastian Shaw as a test to show her true colors.

The artistry of the book was also lacking. Portacio did his usual, but Harvey Tolbao did the last four pages, seemingly for no reason. Not that he did a bad job, but there is nothing more annoying than the change of artists within a book if there is no reason!

It’s a somewhat dull issue, but the set-up for the next Uncanny X-Men accomplished what it was meant to.

Echo #26

Story and Art by Terry Moore
I haven’t read every issue, but what I’ve seen is remarkable. Moore is consistent with his beautiful artwork and character driven storyline. But I’m not too thrilled at the fact that every issue ends so abruptly. Most issues don’t even have a cliffhanger. Just an end.
I really like this book and I believe Moore is probably doing the best work of his career on this title, but it’s continually amazing to me that every issue just seems to cut off. Echo really reads like a long form story that Moore cuts off every 18 pages, whether it really works as a cut-off point or not.
However, this issue probably isn’t the best starting point because it’s driven more by the dialogue than anything else. Also, because it’s almost the end of the entire series.
We see the gang—composed of Dillon, Ivy, Vijay, and Annie whose mind/spirit lives on in Julie through the experimental and seemingly nuclear armor known as Alloy 618—searching for a government base in the outskirts of the Alaskan Arctic Circle. The base holds the Phi Collider and the four are attempting to stop its use, as it would destroy the planet.
Moore’s strength is certainly in his ability to handle people’s emotions and the interactions between people, and that is on display here as well, with some great interactions between our heroes. The language is so natural and it reads better than most comic books. They react like a normal people would to such insane situations.
Top notch work there by Moore.
This is a great comic book that’s well worth reading. With the plot and characters so concrete and defined, it’s easy to get hooked, even if there isn’t a lot of action going on in the panels.

The Cat's Out of the Bag

Gotham City Sirens #17
Written by Peter Calloway with pencils by Andres Guinaldo and inks by Walden Wong.

Official DC Synopsis: Catwoman’s been kidnapped, and now Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn must team up with Talia Al Ghul and Zatanna to free her before she gives up her most valuable secret – a secret that will force Talia to desperate measures.

With the return of Bruce Wayne taking center stage in all the other bat-books, it is nice to read something that isn’t weighed down by that story, but that’s about as far as my relief for this issue goes.

Continuing from #16, this issue begins with Catwoman in a dream-like state, being reunited with Bruce, until they are suddenly attacked by some strange sort of Clayface-like monsters. In the “real world”, Ivy, Harley, Talia and Zatanna continue to bicker over what Selina’s abduction is really about. (But as we already know, her abduction is part of a scheme to discover Batman’s secret identity)

Soon afterwards, the gang discovers in an underground cave that the person responsible for all of this is a former member of the League of Assassins, named Shrike. After a brief scuffle, the gang finds Selina, who has been under some sort of mystical spell by a sensei named Senpai. It turns out Senpai has a serious grudge against Batman, so he decided Selina would be his key to finding him. (And he was right, as he manages to pry Bruce Wayne’s identity from her mind)

I have to say that while I was not terribly excited by the last issue, this issue just felt even stranger. I wasn’t at all surprised that the villains turned out to be members of the League of Assassins due to Talia’s involvement in the story, but I’m still trying to figure out what exactly Zatanna is doing here.

More to the point, the story progression was awkward and hard to follow and the resolution(along with the cliffhanger) was a bit dull and lack-luster. I gave it a chance and, although there’s nothing specifically wrong with the portrayal of characters, I’ve never been a fan of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. And with Catwoman out of commission, this issue falls to the wayside.

Mean [Green] Girls

She Hulks #1
Written by Harrison Wilcox. Pencils by Ryan Stegman, inks by Michael Babinski, and colors by Guru eFX

My feelings about the Hulk (any of them, take your pick) have always been negative. They all remind me of the Jolly Green Giant… Only not so jolly and hyped up on steroids.

The same applies to She-Hulks #1. Admittedly, I only bought the issue because I was expecting it to be terrible. (I like to have a good variety of reviews) I mean really, take a look at the cover. I really don’t know how She-Hulk plans to throw a punch in that stance with her chest thrust forward like that. However, I’m happy to say that the cover artists and story artists are not the same and I really enjoyed reading this issue.

It does struggle with getting things in motion, (despite the action sequence detailed in the first few pages) but anyone familiar with the events of Civil war and World War Hulk will be able to follow along relatively easily. Not to mention, the plot has been focused on one primary goal: Catch the Intelligencia.

Again, I wasn’t too impressed with the progression of the story, but the characters were interesting enough to keep me hooked throughout. The only part I would like to change is when Lyra attends public school. The sequence of events at school almost mirrors “Mean Girls.”

Not that I hate “Mean Girls,” but really? Wilcox couldn’t think of anything different?

Speaking of differences, the characters could benefit from a little more diversity. Besides the red hair, both She-Hulks look relatively the same. (Even the costumes are similar) And in the comic’s only two-page panel, the same two bikini-clad women are drawn over and over again.

And can I just say that it’s nice to see She-Hulk looking normal? Still green, but not overly-muscled like this version: