Alternate Universe Reviews: Harley Quinn, Robin Rises, Life With Archie, X-Men

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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 week is all about DEATH, in Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con International San Diego #1, Robin Rises: Omega #1, Life With Archie #36, and X-Men 100th Anniversary  #1.

(These opinions do not reflect the views held by the ownership or employees of Alternate Universe.)

Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con International San Diego #1

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Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and an enormous team of artists bring Harley Quinn’s newer and less interesting persona to San Diego Comic-Con, and through a disjointed series of events filled with almost entirely lackluster comedy. Harley Quinn accompanies her Brooklyn sideshow companions to the con for sales, and attempt to meet with various industry professionals to attempt to get her own comic published. Navigating a somewhat lifeless version of what the larger comic convention have become, Harley runs into and jokes about various celebrities, comic creators, and cosplayers.

The concept itself promises tons of referential in-jokes and fourth-wall-breaking, both of which densely populate this comic with all of the effectiveness of Deadpool at his least entertaining. There are so many attempts at humor per page that eventually Conner and Palmiotti might tap a laugh or two, but the overwhelming volume of vapid attempts mostly just annoys. The art works in a similar, but slightly more effective way, switching styles enough that a few a real standout greats, alongside a few lackluster showings. Despite a few shining moments, Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con International San Diego is not relatable in its supposedly identifiable setting, and is mainly just flat out boring, which is the last thing you want for a comedy series.

Robin Rises: Omega #1

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The best Robin returns to center stage in Robin Rises: Omega #1, a one-shot event kickoff written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Andy Kubert. The issue opens on a fight between the army of Apokolips and Ra’s al Ghul’s horde of ninjas, fronted in partnership with Batman and Frankenstein. We come to find out that R’as wins Grandad of the year by hiding a possibly dangerous artifact in Damian’s coffin, and thereby painting a large target on his dead body for evil monsters from another dimension to pursue.

While the in media res opening is highly entertaining in both the writing and art of its sprawling action sequence, it causes the issue to fall into a common first issue trap of extremely clunky and pace-breaking exposition to fill in the reader. Plus the part where Batman related Damian’s death at the hands of a giant baby turned killing machine tends to break the tone apart pretty quickly. Those couple of negatives aside, there is a very interesting and fun story here, delivered expertly through a massive showdown against an interesting antagonist. The reader is treated to Batman at his most intense, being forced into a uniquely emotional position through facing the further loss of such a close loved one, and therefore actually in a rare position of being out of depth. Bat-fans will find a great story here, and those who have been missing Damian (I repeat: The Best Robin) might get treated to the return of a beloved character.

Life With Archie #36

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Archie dies! Right there is the full draw of Life With Archie #36, written by Paul Kupperberg and drawn by Pat and Tim Kennedy, which, aside from a few stumbling blocks in pacing, is actually a surprisingly evocative comic. In one of the most essential recap sections before a comic I’ve ever seen, Life With Archie #36 recounts an oddly complex plot of Archie’s possible futures with both Betty or Veronica colliding in this one shared moment. We follow the title character first through his reminiscence of his time in Riverdale, and then to his final moments, gunned down saving the life of his friend and senate-hopeful, Kevin Keller.

Unless you’re already of a fan of the simple, comforting dynamic of idealized life in Riverdale, Archie’s trip down Memory Lane may not be that entertaining. Despite the appealingly sweet moments of Archie’s future for general audiences, the book moves slowly, savoring each character to whom the reader is hopefully attached. Another small fault comes in combining Betty and Veronica into essentially one character for the duration of the comic, effective in its conveying both a creepy tone and the main plot idea of this event taking place no matter Archie’s choice, but still somewhat problematic in making them totally silent and unimportant throughout. Still, the final scene is actually legitimately shocking, in a way that most comics today utterly fail to be. The sad state of a superhero getting dismembered every few months to illicit awe does not hold a candle to the purely shattering and uncomfortable portrayal of Archie’s murder, amid his eternally comforting world.

100th Anniversary Special: X-Men #1

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Writer Robin Furth and artist Jason Masters take 100th Anniversary Special: X-Men #1 to an alternate future in which Cyclops has been elected president. The story takes place over the course of his inauguration day and following night, complete with the required mysterious events and eventual gruesome fallout, involving the racist protesters opposing the mutant rise to power. It’s a high concept comic, but unfortunately lacks the storytelling power or meaningful direction to make itself worthwhile.

Starting from the introductory text, we learn the basic premise of this alternate future, and immediately tear down the X-Men as metaphor for various oppressed groups, noting that Cyclops outright brought in support of those without power in conventional power structure. While sensible, tearing down the sheet of metaphor that lets the mutants fight super-villains and still be insightful only serves to up the ante on the the impact this comic is meant to, and widely fails to achieve. While horrible racist riots erupt in response to Cyclops’ presidency, nothing much else happens in this context. The majority of people can agree that racist riots are bad, the only point the book seems to make in the face of the possible questions of the effectiveness of the X-Men, the subtleties of Xavier’s original ideal, and a whole group of historic ideals of this franchise, better explored previously and laid bare to no effect here. The book mostly fails as an adventure as well, the overarching mystery of the series presented without context, and in a way that wraps up cleanly, and without effect, in no more than two pages. While quality in its art and visual representation, 100th Anniversary Special: X-Men is entirely worth skipping.

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About the Author

Steve DiMaria

Steve DiMaria is a self-taught lover of comics, aspiring cosplayer, and obsessive strategy game addict. He is known to talk endlessly on philosophy, particularly in conjunction with any combination of these three things. Steve is also frequently observed to simply talk quite a lot, in a very loud voice, and oftentimes in public places. Experience more dumb things he says on twitter @Steveofmaria

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