Sunday, March 13, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 3/9

Legion of Super-Villains #1 (one-shot) (DC, $4.99, Paul Levitz, Francis Portela) - A classic staple of the Legion stories returns, this time spearheaded by Saturn Queen, who has gotten a boost to her telepathic powers.  The double-sized issue shows her recruiting villains new and old, and undertaking a new cause to destroy key cornerstones of the DC Universe with a religious fervor.  Given that this is the 31st century, certain elements that might be considered 'safe' in a modern day story just might legitimately threatened (one of the three targets that Saturn Queen seeks to destroy is indeed demolished).

This is just a prelude to the next story arc in the main Legion book, but it's a good one, selling SQ as a genuinely dangerous and bloodthirsty foe.  Much like the recent Annual, Levitz's writing is sharper here than it is in the main book; despite the fact that the Legion (the heroic one, that is) only shows up for a few pages, the pacing helps to carry the story and set up the inevitable conflict between the two Legions.  Portela does a good job with the art, giving the story the sense of scope it needs.  If you're a Legion fan, don't make the mistake of skipping this one.

Doc Savage #12 (DC, $2.99, Ivan Brandon, Brian Azzarello, Nic Klein) - Well, at least this story arc is over.  It's better than the first story arc, to be certain, but that's not setting the bar very high.  There's nothing overly wrong with the plot or characterization; it's just that the story isn't terribly exciting (having drug on as long as it has certainly didn't help).  Rumors of the book's cancellation linger (as well as the entire line getting axed), but I'm still cautiously optimistic about J.G. Jones arrival on the book next issue.

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #2 (of 6) (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus) - The latest tale of Fabletown's master spy continues, as we see her in flashbacks cross paths with her current foe Silverslipper, while preparing for a confrontation with her in the modern day.  Roberson does a good job of mixing classic spy tropes with the fantasy world of Fables, and writes the title character in an entertaining and consistent manner.  The art by McManus also does a good job of carrying the story.  This issue is primarily a mixture of build-up and exposition, but it's entertaining while doing so.  Another solid issue, in what looks to be another fun genre-bending romp.

Conan: Road Of Kings #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50, Roy Thomas, Mike Hawthorne) - After last issue's somewhat disappointing effort, this issue fortunately gets right back into gear.  Conan encounters a past compatriot, his current paramour is kidnapped, villains plot and scheme, and we have a fair amount of mayhem thrown in for good measure.  Thomas's writing is tighter here than in the previous issue, and Hawthorne's art, while still not my first choice for this story, is functional.  I'm glad that last issue's dip in quality doesn't appear to be the norm, but was rather only a temporary aberration.

Shockrockets: We Have Ignition (Dark Horse, $14.95, Kurt Busiek, Stuart Immonen) - Picked this up on sale, and I'm glad I did.  This is a collection of the six-issue mini-series that Busiek and Immonen did for Image back in 2000 for their short-lived 'Gorilla Comics' imprint. The story is set in the latter half of the 21st century, with the Earth rebuilding after a war with an alien race.  Our hero Alejandro Cruz accidentally falls in with the Shockrockets, an elite squadron of pilots flying high-tech aerial fighter craft, based on technology taken from the alien invaders.  The Shockrockets are currently waging a series of battles against one of Earth's most respected generals during the war, now gone rogue and desiring his own kingdom.

In some ways this feels like the sort of classic science fiction that Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton used to write about a half-century ago.  Alejandro's status as an outsider make it difficult for him to be accepted among the Shockrockets, yet it is that same quality that helps them when they are facing their darkest hour.  That said, Busiek's story certainly doesn't feel dated; the characterization, world-building, and tight plotting all mix together wonderfully. There's a bit of a cliffhanger at the end, after the main storyline is resolved, which no doubt would have been followed through on if the series had continued to be published.  That doesn't really detract from the main story, though, so it's a minor complaint at most. As for the art... well, if you're not already familiar with Immonen's artwork, suffice to say that this is a beautiful book.  Highly recommended.

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