Alternate Universe Reviews: Superman, Doctor Who, Storm, Avengers
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 features a wide variety of approaches to heroism, in Superman #33, Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor #1, Storm #1, and Avengers 100th Anniversary #1.
(These opinions do not reflect the views held by the ownership or employees of Alternate Universe.)
Superman #33 continues the absolutely fantastic start of new creative team Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr., but begins to crack at the seams just a bit in its storytelling. The Daily Planet begins its crusade to print as much news as possible about Superman’s new best friend, while bringing Clark Kent back into the fold. Clark seeks to find out more about the origins of his new pal Ulysses, delving into the history of a super-science project that sent him into another dimension, in a human version of Clark’s own background.
While this story is still particularly interesting, exploring territory very important to Superman as a character and the way in which he works, both of our heavy-hitting, top-billed creators begin to show a few small problems. I sometimes find Johns too wordy, and while he avoided that problem in the spectacular first issue, he relapses into it here, writing blocks and blocks of word bubbles, telling instead of showing, and, worst of all, fitting the occasional cement shoes to Romita Jr.’s vibrant ability at visual storytelling. However, Romita Jr. is even too textured in places, displaying a bit of disconnect between his hyper, tense lines and textures and the intended clean and upright Clark Kent. Still, these problems are paltry in the face of an excellent work laying bare the iconic core of Superman, filled with almost entirely positive work by each of these noted creators, Johns in his mythic focus, and Romita Jr. in his powerful portrayals.
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #1
In it’s debut issue published by Titan Comics, Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #1 brings David Tennant’s beloved portrayal to New York City, courtesy of writer Nick Abadzis and artist Elena Casagrande. In a somewhat standard comic book premiere, readers are treated almost entirely to setup, introducing Gabriella Gonzalez, a bright girl stuck helping out her family business (in typical Doctor Who companion fashion), her family and friends, and a few disturbing incidents of psychic hauntings around the Day of the Dead.
Falling inevitably short of his previous allure, the Doctor’s writing foregoes the unrestrained and numerous explosions of movement and vocal tone of his existing charm, instead favoring jumbles of foreign rants to attempt the same wacky endearment. Of course, there is so much more room to build, and not much space already given to the character to draw the reader in on his own merit. Still, the identifiable structure of a good Doctor Who episode (ordinary and boring world as the setup, shattered by a strange mystery with cool side effects that we don’t understand yet) is immediately comforting, both in Abadzis’ building of characters and tone, and Casagrande’s clear, expressive, and ultimately identifiable art, and returning fans will still have enough context to enjoy our title character’s few appearances from the start. While new fans may need more than this first issue to really get into what makes the source material so beloved, returning Whovians have a great jumping-off point to enjoy this promising series.
Storm is one of those rare superheroes that writers actually decide to point towards real world problems to meaningful effect, and Storm #1, written by Greg Pak with art by Victor Ibanez, pulls off that angle and so much more. Our story starts with Storm saving a small village from an enormous tidal wave, then facing the forces of the ruling despot, next dealing with a troublesome student back at school, and then back again to each of these pursuits, exploring deep, powerful character elements all the way through. Aside from peppering an intended serious story with the types of spandex-clad villains better reserved for the campy and fun, Storm faces acts of nature against those unable to defend themselves, whether that be a natural disaster or human nature, in both the subjugation of a nation or the bullying of a student. She even faces realistically conveyed problems of her own, with a being of her amazing powers enveloped in a difficult balance between forcing things to be right and having to play nice to appease (earning a jibe of being a sell-out).
Ibanez’s art is textured and dramatic, Storm a proud, solid figure among thrashing, anarchic exterior movement. Emotionally tense, Ororo’s (and other characters’) inner movement pours forth in deep expressions, subtle, but just as vivid as the whipping winds or clamoring masses. This issue runs deep and hits hard, in a way that very few #1 issues are able to convey. Partially thanks to the comic existing as an open-and-close one shot story, we see a valid and human exploration of Storm, as the caring, measured, yet extremely forceful character we’ve mostly been given hints about. Through the fantastic work of both Pak and Ibanez, we finally get to experience it all firsthand.
The Avengers 100th Anniversary #1
Celebrating another alternate future 100th anniversary, James Stokoe brings a unique and fun style to the distant future of Marvel’s main super-team. Following the small trio of Dr. Strange, Rogue, and Beta Ray Bill through dense and chaotic environments of unidentifiable biological material, Stokoe revels in the over-the-top yet familiar power behind these stories of costumed heroes. A standard good vs. evil plot with a ton of heart and even allusions to other tie-ins that don’t actually exist, make everything feel run of the mill, yet new and extraordinary. This comic strikes the perfect cognitive dissonance between what we accept as regular in our stories of costumed, super-powered being, and just the powerful, fun immensity of it all. Wonderfully hectic and telling in both character-building dialogue and artistic texture and movement, Avengers 100th Anniversary is the best of this fun concept yet, feeling the most like another good comic that cuts to the heart of its mythic power, only alien and displaced in time.
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