Alternate Universe Reviews: Grayson, Action Comics Annual, Genius, Superior Foes of Spider-Man
We here at G33king Out love to support our local comic book stores, and oftentimes, they love to support us right back. Today we’re featuring reviews of a few new comics we received from our friends at Alternate Universe, a local comic store with locations in both New Haven and Milford, CT. If you’re in the area, make sure you check the place out. This (two) week(s ago) features comics that are much easier to read than the law school assignments that have kept me from reviewing Grayson #2, Action Comics Annual #3, Genius #1, and Superior Foes of Spider-Man #14.
(These opinions do not reflect the views held by the ownership or employees of Alternate Universe.)
Writers Tim Seeley and Tom King and artist Mikel Janin slow down just a bit for their followup Grayson #2, but still manage to hold their ground as a total standout from DC’s lineup. Dick’s second mission explores the addition of partner Helena Bertinelli in a mission to subdue and transport another super-powered “menace.” We get a ton of the same fun from the first issue, with the flashy action and breakneck speed edging out any other run-of-the-mill New 52 story with the same accepted house style. One of the few books that this title falls short of is its predecessor in issue one.
While Midnighter’s previous appearance was interesting, and Spyral’s sketchiness shocking, both of these repetitions have already lost a bit of their luster. As sustainable story option rather than pleasing appearances, the two main plot points stagger without development. However, this is a small stumble in otherwise tonal brilliance, both exhibiting and serving the character of Dick Grayson in an unexpected and overtly joyous way.
Action Comics Annual #3
Greg Pak takes his Superman: Doomed storyline into massive territory with Action Comics Annual #3, alongside artists Ken Lashley, Aaron Kuder, Jack Herbert, Cliff Richards, Julius Gopez, Will Conrad and Pascal Alixe. Turns for the worse continue to one-up each other, as the crisis of having a Superman who is part Doomsday gives way to Braniac’s appearance and control of Lois Lane, which gives way to a horrible criminal’s escape, which gives even further way to Braniac’s enormous final gambit at the end of the issue.
Although sprawling and entertaining, this comic is a study in desensitizing the reader to crisis. Instead of ramping up tension and drama, each horrible situation almost immediately gives way to a bigger, badder, more hopeless one. This actually kind of serves the comic in its own way of being over-the-top fun, provided the reader can reconcile the wonderfully drawn vistas of powerful combat and destruction with the complete ridiculousness of it all. Most positively though, this book has a ton of heart at its core, cutting the center of some of what makes Superman, through a few moments of clarity and an overall assuredness of capability. This is an excellent Superman comic, frequently confusing and ridiculous, but most importantly concerned with the humanity of the characters.
Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman join artist Afua Richardson on Genius #1, a violent crime book centering around a savant of a woman who unites all of LA’s gangs into her own personal army. This book seems to aspire to be a serious version of the Saint’s Row series, and why in the hell would you ever try to make a series version of Saint’s Row?
Genius not only fails to provide interesting subject matter, but falters in its characterization, assuring us that the main players are how the narration says they are, without actually showing any of it, or making their dialogue feel unique to their personalities. This seems like a book founded purely on concept, with less care given to personality in the characters or in the overall tone. Richardson’s art is a saving grace, conveying characterization much more in depth than the dialogue, all while providing a fun style that almost provides a tone in itself. Genius is unfortunately not worth your time, given both its lackluster concept and execution.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #14
Superior Foes of Spider-Man is a legitimately funny book. Writer Nick Spencer and artists Steve Lieber and Rich Ellis bring us another tale of Spider-Man’s latest conglomerate of villains, in their safe house celebration after a successful heist. Primarily we see Overdrive’s story of a huge chase scene and stealing a bus, all the while making fun of the stereotypes of villains and, more specifically, action heroes.
Aside from a few jokes falling flat, as in the case in almost any comedy, Superior Foes of Spider-Man #14 draws its comedy, its fun, and pretty much all of its likability from its strong characterizations. Each of these characters is a joke it themselves, with silly powers, and fun, real personalities to actual make that matter. Action scenes are solid, facial expressions are evocative, and, most importantly, storytelling is the primary concern. Whether it takes the form of the silent and quick panels for Speed Demon’s story, a huge sprawling chase scene for Overdirve, or its more frequent forms in conventional comic storytelling throughout, the little touches of expression and personality in both the art and dialogue continue to make this series fantastic.
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