Welcome again to Kabooooom’s weekly comics review round-up! In this edition, Marcus and Ann take a hard look at two of Marvel’s offerings, Thunderbolts #14 and X-Men #4. While Matthew, delves into a children’s title comic book readers of all ages will enjoy with Gestalt Comics’, The Deep: Here Be Dragons #2.
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
A comic book that combines Red Hulk, Agent Venom, Elektra, Punisher, and Deadpool on a single team should be an amazing, action-packed adventure. Unfortunately since the inception of this new team, Thunderbolts has struggled to employ the distinct personalities of the characters in both plot and art, or the diverse possibilities for plot lines. The hope with Charles Soule and Jefte Palo taking over the creative duties is that those past failures can be corrected. Thunderbolts #14 does show dramatic improvement in some of these areas, however, it still has a long way to go to be what it should be.
Soule shows throughout the issue that he understands the large cast of renegade heroes better than the previous creators did. With such a popular and power packed cast of characters Soule has to treat each issue of Thunderbolts like a crossover. He clearly understands the role Red Hulk’s leadership ability, Punisher’s quiet vigilantism, and Deadpool’s oddball sarcasm should have in a team of vigilantes. As an example of Soule’s excellent use of these characters, the Punisher explains the team’s new mission, which is to take down a crime family. In response Deadpool, bedecked in a fancy plumed hat says, “I have literally never been less surprised in all my life.” The Punisher completely ignores him, however. These interactions prove Soule understands the significant role these characters can have in building a strong comic run. Sadly, he still has some work to do to create the same sense of individualism for Elektra, Venom, and Red Leader. They still seem like secondary C-list characters when they need to be A-List.
Palo’s art throughout the issue is odd to say the least. There is a distinct blocky, juvenile aspect to his visual characterizations of each team member that resembles Sponge Bob more than the heroic attributes one expects. In one scene Red Hulk sprints forward in the panel; his arms and shoulders are almost as long as the page and piled with muscles, while his legs seem too small to hold up his frame. Another panel later in the issue portrays Punisher in much the same way. These visuals completely distract from Soule’s initial attempt to reinvigorate the comic.
Another problem with the issue is that it has an Infinity banner on the cover. This comic has absolutely nothing to do with the Infinity event, except a few panels where the team discusses how the Avengers are away on a mission that has, “nothing to do with us.” That final line of the comic perfectly sums up this lame attempt on Marvel’s part to tie this comic into the excitement garnered by Infinity.
Review by ANNE MORTENSEN-AGNEW
X-Men #4 is very much a transitional issue and postscript to the previous three-issue arc, “Primer.” Brian Wood deals with two stories wrapping up plots and conflicts introduced in “Primer” – Jubilee’s decision to adopt the abandoned baby Shogo, and Rachel Grey’s mistrust of Storm’s role as leader after she proved willing to kill the possessed Karima Shapandar.
Storm and Rachel’s conflict take the deserved slot as the main story line. Wood writes a legitimate animosity between Storm and Rachel, based on their different views of whether it would have been justifiable to kill Karima. Both women discuss their views, and both have good reasons behind them. It’s a great debate on the ethics of superheroing – Storm believes you can’t have a black and white, all-or-nothing view in a world filled with gray, but Rachel cannot accept that killing a friend could ever be justified. The two put aside their conflict to save Rogue and several civilians, but the argument is not resolved – which is good for two reasons. First because it leaves the door open for a future ethical conflict, and second because there is no right or a wrong answer. Wood writes two women who stick to their convictions, but know when to put down the feud to help a friend.
Jubilee’s story is a sincerely sweet one with more than a few “awww” moments. Nervous about her decision to raise Shogo, she calls in her own father figure, Wolverine for some guidance. It’s very much a story about family and growing into new maturities. Jubilee reminisces about her own childhood and tries to hold onto that past by taking Shogo to the places of her youth. Logan is as good a father to her as she aims to be to Shogo, and knows when to give Jubilee the encouragement to step forward, as well as what to hold onto from the past.
In the art department, Olivier Coipel has departed now that the pilot arc has wrapped up. He’s succeeded by a four-man team of David Lopez on pencils, Cam Smith and Norman Lee on ink, and Chris Peter on colors. The four deliver some good emotions as well as action for the cast. They really shine when delivering some vicious glares and side-eyes between Rachel Grey and Storm, as well as Jubilee’s nostalgia and worries about her future. Their best work, however, is without a doubt with Rogue. Their art lets you share Rogue’s sheer glee at getting to live the life and talents of a telepath assassin martial arts master (courtesy of a Psylocke power absorption). They make a good team, even if the solicits indicate they won’t be around for the long haul.
X-Men #4 is a story that is both sweet and serious, and really digs into what drives its characters – Storm and Rachel’s commitment to their team, Jubilee’s family bonds – that both re-establishes who these women are and what they need, and sets up what issues they may face in the future.
Review by MATT MORRISON
Wherever there are oddities under the sea, The Nekton Family will be there to investigate! This issue finds the famous family of aquanaut adventurers in Greenland, drawn by sensationalist news reports of a gigantic sea monster attacking fishing vessels. But these rumors are no fish story! It is not long before our intrepid heroes are descending into an underwater chasm in the super-strong submarine they call home, in search of an unknown life-form.
Writer Tom Taylor takes us back in time with this series, which is similar in tone to the great action/adventure comics of the Silver Age, like The Sea Devils and Challengers of the Unknown. There’s little action in this issue, yet Taylor builds the suspense masterfully. More importantly, he keeps the plot moving and adds enough humor that young readers are unlikely to grow bored during the slower parts of the story. Taylor also does a good job depicting the realities of undersea exploration and educates the reader without lecturing them.
James Brouwer’s artwork is so animated one might think the panels of this comic were still-frame shots taken from the latest Pixar movie. Indeed, some of Brouwer character designs are reminiscent of The Parr Family from The Incredibles while still remaining distinctively original. Brouwer also proves particularly effective at depicting facial expressions and one could almost get the gist of the entire issue purely through the faces the characters make.
The Deep: Here Be Dragons is that rarest of all treasures: a fun kids’ comic that parents can enjoy just as much as their children. It teaches the reader about underwater exploration and deep sea wildlife with surprising subtlety. It also conveys a positive environmental message without being preachy. The artwork is as lively and colorful as the story. Truly, the only bad thing about this comic is that it is a limited series.