This week the round-up is back with reviews of Dark Horse’s Brain Boy #0, plus the latest from Marvel’s newest crossover event, Inhumanity, Mighty Avengers #4 and Inhumanity: Awakening #1.
BRAIN BOY #0/ Written by FRED VAN LENTE/ Art by FREDDIE WILLIAMS II/ Colors by EGO/ Letters by NATE PIEKOS OF BLAMBOT/ Published by DARK HORSE COMICS
Raised by his parents’ employers at Albright Industries after their tragic deaths, he was developed into the world’s most powerful telepath. Though usually a company man, his aid is available to those who can afford him. His name is Matt Price, but the rest of the world knows him as Brain Boy.
Writer Fred Van Lente proves largely successful in trying to put a new spin on the telepathic superhero. The most interesting aspect of Brain Boy’s powers is that his strength lies in versatility – not raw force. We are told he is one of the few telepaths who can manifest more than one psychic power consistently and that not all of those powers operate at the same level of complexity.
For instance, he can read the minds of hundreds of people at once but can only “write” ideas into one brain at a time. This forces Matt to be creative when he is forced into a fight, since he can’t just command a dozen armed men to drop their guns. Van Lente also avoids the usual genre cliches about telepaths having a hard time dealing with crowds, with Matt comparing reading the thoughts of an entire crowd to an eternally scrolling YouTube comments section.
Sadly, Van Lente’s plot fails to live up to the promise of his concept. The issue’s story – Brain Boy suddenly finding himself alone in fighting an assassination attempt instigated by another telepath – is solid enough but the execution falls flat. The surprise villain is no surprise at all. Worse, the dramatic tension of the entire story is completely derailed by a “comedic” sequence in which Brain Boy must deal with an Indian tech-support operator at his own company while trying to call for back-up.
The artwork of Freddie Williams II doesn’t help matters. Williams’ art is as wildly inconsistent, in terms of tone and style, as Van Lente’s story. Characters may look like realistic humans in one panel only to suddenly have exaggerated, cartoonish features in the next. Soldiers in photo-realistic body armor are depicted on the same page as big-eyed, small-mouthed little girls, who seem to have jumped right off the cover of a CLAMP manga!
Bottom Line? Smart readers won’t think twice about avoiding this book.
MIGHTY AVENGERS #4/ Written by AL EWING/ Pencils by GREG LAND/ Inks by JAY LEISTEN/ Colors by FRANK D’ARMATA/ Letters by VC’s CORY PETIT/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Mighty Avengers #4 begins part one of a new story with the fledgling team, but it partially has the feel of an interlude chapter. It is a little bit slow, but a nice, taking-its-time slow rather than a plodding slow. The issue – and presumably the following two, at minimum – ties in to Inhumanity, and while it is a bummer that the series probably has to do that to survive in its infancy, if it will boost sales then Marvel should absolutely go for it. This is not to get anywhere near negative about #4 – it is, on the whole, a good issue and highly advisable reading.
The new Avengers team’s struggles are the A-Plot of the issue, and the B-plot focuses on Jason Quantrel, an entrepreneur with a time-super-powered, Inhuman girl-Friday, Barbara. Quantrell wants to find a way to manipulate, market, and sell the Inhumans’ powers – a pretty solid conceit for a villain, pitting reckless, self-centered capitalism against Luke’s explicitly altruistic Avengers. Luke also faces opposition from the Mighty Avengers’ teammate that none of them like, Spider-Ock. Spider-Ock continues to be, in-universe, the worst person in the entire world, which makes you wonder why Luke is still putting up with him, especially since he keeps trying to steal away teammates or seize leadership for himself.
While Spider-Ock is an obnoxious jag, Luke is a delight, even more so with his family around. It’s good to see Luke throw himself so wholeheartedly into his own Avengers Initiative, and be so openly dedicated to helping the helpless. While the trope of “current significant other hates ex-significant other” is tired, Jessica is still warmly welcomed whenever and wherever she appears, and given that She-Hulk is going to be a member of the team, it’s likely that conflict will be resolved in short order.
The rest of the team doesn’t quite feature this round. Monica shows up to help Luke move in and renovate, Spider Hero/Ronin (it’s Blade, isn’t it?) communes with some mystical forces, Victor and Aya are late to the party, and Blue Marvel is currently indisposed in one of the better smash cuts in recent comics. Sam Wilson/The Falcon joins up with the team, too, which is terrific! Sam’s appearance leads to a pretty good joke in an issue that is full of good comedy with the team (though Blue Marvel’s aforementioned smash cut is the best of them).
As for the art, Greg Land is still on pencil duty. His presence is really the one drawback to the book, which is a shame since Leisten and D’Armata are killing it on inks and colors. If they could get a better and less controversial penciler in, then we would all be in business. But until then, Land is simply the one negative in an otherwise great and highly recommendable book.
MARVEL KNIGHTS: HULK #1/ Written by JOE KEATINGE/ Art by PIOTR KOWALSKI/ Colors by NICK FILARDI/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
The Marvel Knights banner carries some lofty connotations. The imprint’s original turn-of-the-millennium era arguably saved Marvel Comics from bankruptcy, and might even be classified as the spark that lit the fuse of today’s pop culture explosion. Before Marvel Knights, comics were as good as dead. After Marvel Knights, your mom knows who Tony Stark is. Blockbuster runs by Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palimotti, Kevin Smith, Grant Morrison, and Jae Lee paved the way for comic books improbable continuance into a new century. Pretty heady stuff.
In a move that’s perhaps unfair to the creators involved, Marvel has recently brought back the Marvel Knights label for a round of miniseries focusing on high-profile characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men, and this week’s entry, Hulk. The self-described goal of the new Marvel Knights line is to “invite fresh voices to tell their dream stories starring our greatest characters.” Measuring by its own standard, Marvel Knights: Hulk #1 falls short.
What writer Joe Keatinge and artist Piotr Kowalski turn in with their vision of Bruce Banner isn’t without talent. There’s some good character bits and a few interesting art beats throughout the issue. If you’re a Francophile, there are plenty of Parisian sites to take in. The totality, however, feels far from anyone’s “dream” Hulk story.
To begin with, there’s no Hulk. Do you need the Green Goliath smashing cars for ten pages to make a remarkable Hulk story? No. Should the character appear for more than a panel in what is ostensibly being positioned as a “definitive” Hulk story? Probably.
The plot of an amnesiac Banner adrift in Paris introduces some interesting supporting characters but unfortunately doesn’t provide any hook. The espionage-tinged action, supporting cast drama, and an unpersuasive European setting comes across as a mash of Jason Bourne and Midnight in Paris, and that’s a combo that just doesn’t work. The issue picks up some steam in its closing pages, but the conflict presented isn’t enough to salvage the deal.
The art has an angular energy to it, but feels uninspired. Bruce Banner doesn’t immediately come across as recognizable. There’s a roughhewn quality and some odd layout choices. The complete package feels out of sync somehow.
The prospect of a Marvel Knights-style Hulk story is exciting, but it’s hard to believe that his strange, off-kilter Parisian tale is it. There’s some interesting characterization in spots, but readers looking to Marvel Knights: Hulk for a dream Hulk story will have to dream on.
INHUMANITY: AWAKENING #1/ Written by MATT KINDT/ Art by PAUL DAVIDSON/ Colors by JEAN-FRANCOIS BEAULIEU/ Letters by JOE CARAMAGNA/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
The young superheroes of Infinity: The Hunt continue their adventures in Inhumanity: Awakening #1 as they try to help the newly transformed Inhumans of the world feel more comfortable in their new found power. Those who like Avengers Academy, Wolverine and the X-Men, and FF will find many of the same coming of age as a super powered teen thematic developments that each of those series have created. Matt Kindt’s unique development technique, however, will probably turn many off of this interesting mini-series.
As many of the young trainee superheroes help clean up after Thanos’ attack, Pixie becomes concerned about a new Inhuman who has tweeted her entire transformation. As the teenage heroes are pulled into Fiona’s world, Kindt employs a very wordy social media driven narrative technique. At the top of each page are tweets from two Twitter followers that illuminate the social anxiety and excitement of the Terrigan transformation. Kindt develops Fiona’s transformation and subsequent struggles through her video tweets, as well. At one glance the densely packed social media style dialogue makes the comic feel overdeveloped. If one can look past the jam-packed development, one could see that Kindt portrays the tension and intolerance that always surrounds super-powered beings very well.
Davidson does an interesting job of portraying Kindt’s narrative by mixing traditional panels that show current action with screenshot-like panels of Fiona’s video tweets. The tweet panels really limit Davidson’s art to a cartoonish blur, which is unfortunate because his full panels are exceptional.
Overall, Kindt’s story is unique in that it uses social media as a storytelling device. The cramped and overdeveloped appearance of the dialogue, however, creates a sense of boredom throughout the issue. That combined with inconsistency in Davidson’s art makes this a hard comic to love.