Welcome to The Round-Up! This week, we welcome newcomer Isabel Hsu as she takes a look at Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier #8.
As much as I’m mourning Brubaker’s impending departure from Captain America, his work in Winter Soldier, especially the current “Broken Arrow” story arc, serves as more than adequate consolation. In this issue, villainous sleeper agent Leo Novokov kidnaps and plots to brainwash Natasha Romanoff, more commonly known as the Black Widow, while Bucky Barnes, the eponymous Winter Soldier, mercilessly tears through the criminal underground to find information about her whereabouts. While this all sounds like a pretty typical comic book setup, Brubaker’s treatment of the Bucky Barnes character gives this standard premise all sorts of unexpected dimension. As the former right-hand man of Steve Rogers (aka the paragon of virtue and all things good) and having served a stint as the Captain America himself at one point, Bucky’s struggle to justify his questionably clouded morality makes for a particularly compelling read.
Michael Lark’s art complements Brubaker’s words as well as it did during the duo’s run on Daredevil – a panel of Bucky leaping through a line of gunfire is positively cinematic, as are the other brilliantly rendered action scenes – but the icing on the cake has to be Bettie Breitweiser’s unbelievable coloring. The sensuously murky shades bleed into each other, sometimes quite literally, and serve as the perfect backdrop for the raw, visceral dialogue, both internal and external. The grit and brutality is deftly captured without being tastelessly graphic, and combined with writing up to par with Brubaker’s best, it all boils down to one gorgeous comic book.
When a comic is titled Godzilla you’d expect to see Godzilla within its pages right? Well Duane Swiercznski disagrees.
Instead, we get gruff main protagonist Boxer and his Monster Kill Crew. Swierczynski tries his hardest to add depth to one of the team by making them the books focus. But this characters inner monologue is heavy handed and comes across as forced emotional grief rather than something the readership can get behind.
What does work is the first battle with Anguirus. There is a great pace about the proceedings. It also helps that Simon Gane’s pencils are wonderfully dynamic. His characters are expressive, but it is his depiction of the cities and the monsters that really impresses. The defeat of Anguirus is a great visual that is over the top comic book fun, which suits the monster movie milieu.
However after the initial battle in Scotland all the other monsters they dispatch seem like pushovers. This lessens the threat of the creatures and just seems like a way for Swierczynski to get to Godzilla quickly. It makes the pacing of the narrative seem inconsistent due to the fact the opening is such a struggle. It is also not helped that the characters have little character to them. It may look like a fun comic, but you can’t help but wonder where Godzilla is and hope he makes the whole thing more interesting when he eventually turns up.
National Comics: Eternity is the first standalone story that does not adhere the normal DC New 52 criteria. This one-shot issue has its moments but unfortunately plays it too safe for this to be a memorable entry.
Lemire does a great job of recapping the protagonist Christopher Freeman’s history, as I’m sure many readers were unfamiliar with the backstory here. He’s able to do this in a quick 3 pages as to not make this issue feel like an origin story, but rather like peeking in on a character who we just have not heard from in awhile. From here however the story gets a little too formulaic. The issue progresses like an episode of Law and Order meets Pushing Daisies . It never felt like the issue found it’s own voice, and therefore was stuck in place that didn’t really allow much room for the type of approach that a comic like this should take. A lot of interesting ideas, and potentially great storylines were hinted at here, but none of which were capitalized upon in this issue.
The artwork throughout is consistent and fitting for the book, with some really beautiful splash pages and good emotive characters. The problem here though is the same with the story, I just can’t help but think a story like this could have used more of the crazy, and less of the straight, gridded paneling. The first page of the book is more of the tone that I expected, and was only utilized a few times.
This book feels like it could make a great TV show, but unfortunately as a one-shot comic there is just more to be desired, especially from these creators who have proven their mastery of the weird in the past.
The New 52 reboot of Aquaman started out strong. The King of Atlantis was a character desperately in need of a recharge and Geoff Johns gave him just that. Unfortunately, as we continue through this second arc things have become muddled. What started out as a fascinating exploration of who Arthur Curry is, the kind of hero he can be, and his relationship with Mera, the series has now strayed into a confusing backstory with a slew of new characters and more retreading of Aquaman’s ongoing struggle with Black Manta.
It’s really hard to give a shit about this Other League, a group of heroes Arthur palled around with before the Justice League. None of them are very interesting or compelling characters, and I find them kind of whiny. There’s a lot of anger about Arthur having left them, but who could blame him? The Justice League is way cooler. Here’s hoping this Other League fades back into obscurity once this arc is tied up.
Hurting this storyline the most is the absence of Mera. This issue she’s in short scene, fighting off Manta, but that’s it. Johns had done such a fantastic job establishing her as a fierce warrior and wonderful partner for Arthur that things just aren’t as interesting when the two are apart.
Artistically, Aquaman is still looking great. Arthur and Mera are easily the most gorgeous couple – and one of the few married couples – at DC. Ivan Reis excels at drawing these super hero physiques that are never grotesquely buff, or in Mera’s case, excessively cheesecake. The coloring is beautiful, even when working with a limited palette of mostly blues and greens. The book’s so darn good lookin’ it’s a shame we don’t really care about what’s happening on page.