Welcome back to The Round-Up! It’s a full serving of superheroes as Marcus Hammond delves into the first meeting of The World’s Finest and the complicated relationship between Psylocke and Fantomex – all three of them, that is. But first, Taylor White reminds us why Aquaman is no joke, but King of the Seven Seas and deserving of our respect!
AQUAMAN #21/ Written by GEOFF JOHNS/ Art by PAUL PELLETIER, SEAN PARSONS, ROD REIS/ Letters by DEZI SIENTY/ Published by DC COMICS
Review by TAYLOR WHITE
With the launch of DC’S New 52 in 2011, Geoff Johns treated readers to one of the most well-deserved character reboots of the past decade. He brought Aquaman from being the punch line of many a comic book satire, to his rightful place of respect in the DC community. This week’s issue shows that Johns has not lost his voice for Arthur, Mera, and the mysterious world of Atlantis.
The story follows the typical Johns style, feeling more like a grand scale movie than a comic book, which is absolutely perfect for this series. When reading through the revelation of Mera’s past, you feel her internal conflict as though it were your own.
Readers cannot help but worry for the fate of not only Atlantis, but its long-lost enemy, Xebel. Mera and Arthur’s dialogue are up to the usual standards, but cannot compare to Aquaman’s internal dialogue. Johns remains a highly prestigious voice of Arthur Curry.
Paul Pelletier returns to pencils in this issue, and you can tell he is glad to be back. His cover, in particular, is beautifully simplistic. While it does not portray events within the book, one can’t help but feel it’s foreshadowing of the impending climax.
The interior is not quite as beautiful, but is still quite good. The facial features and expressions can be a bit cartoonish at times, and seem to detract from the seriousness of certain scenes.
It’s not clear if that is a result of Pelletier’s pencils or Reis’s colors, but it is not impactful enough to diminish the book overall. Reis’s palette is perfect for underwater scenes by blurring the image just enough to give a realistic perspective.
With Atlantis unguarded, the Dead King on the rise, the possible return of Orm, and the evil plans of Scavenger nearing fruition, the chances of a pleasant ending for all involved seem impossible.
BATMAN/SUPERMAN #1/ Written by GREG PAK/ Art by JAE LEE, BEN OLIVER, JUNE CHUNG, DANIEL BROWN/ Letters by ROB LEIGH/ Published by DC COMICS
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
Before Batman and Superman ever teamed up in Justice League #1, they met years prior. In Batman/Superman #1, Greg Pak begins to illuminate what the relationship between the two superheroes was like in those early days of the New 52 universe.
There are no surprises in the basic emotional elements Pak develops between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. Clark is a dorky investigative journalist looking to uncover clues about a spree of murdered Wayne Enterprises’ employees in Metropolis, while Bruce is a secretive, distrusting, grim loner with his own agenda.
Through this first meeting it is clear that there is no trust – Clark senses Bruce is hiding something, and Bruce finds the Metropolis journalist a nuisance. Jae Lee takes this dichotomy a step further in the art by creating a fractured splash page highlighting the differences between Clark and Bruce’s childhoods. Once this essential division in the characters is established Pak leads the reader into the main conflict of his first story arc.
Pak’s plot is at the very least chaotic, and at it’s worst, distracting. There are at least four different time periods covered within this 25 page issue with no clear transition markers: Clark and Bruce meet; Clark and Bruce remember their fathers; a conflict occurs between the two heroes while still in the past, yet after the initial meeting; and finally we end up in a further future where Batman and Superman have established a close relationship. Confusing? It gets worse after the big reveal at the end.
Jae Lee’s art is bleak yet stunningly spot on for the atmospheric darkness that is associated with Gotham, however, surprisingly bland for Metropolis. After the initial meeting between Bruce and Clark in Gotham many of Lee’s backgrounds become blurred shadows focusing more on detailed borders than actual environment development. These austere backgrounds, detailed borders, and gothic character work blend together to create a unique visual experience.
Overall, the story is confusing and chaotic, but the bright side is it’s the first issue. I’m willing to give the series a few more issues to see if Pak will explain the different transitions presented in Batman/Superman #1.
UNCANNY X-FORCE (Vol. 2) #7/ Written by SAM HUMPHRIES/ Art by ADRIAN ALPHONA, DALIBOR TALAJIC, CHRIS SOTOMAYOR, LEE LOUGHRIDGE/ Letters by JOE SABINO/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
Uncanny X-Force #7 takes a leave of absence from the previous storyline where Storm, Puck, and Psylocke deal with Spiral, the kidnapping of a young orphaned mutant, and the return of Bishop, to focus solely on the relationship between Psylocke and the three Fantomex reproductions – Fantomex, Cluster, and Weapon XIII.
Humphries uses a then and now approach to revealing the path Psylocke’s relationship with Fantomex took after the events of Remender’s run on Uncanny X-force. As the book opens Fantomex takes advantage of Psylocke’s desire to live a more humbled life than that of an assassin by convincing her to rob the Paris diamond exchange for his mother’s benefit. As the story flashes forward, Cluster, the compassionate side of the original triple-brained Fantomex, and Psylocke attempt to locate and rescue Fantomex from his more sinister spawn, Weapon XIII.
At times throughout the story it feels like Humphries is trying too hard to find an original voice that connects to the strong character development and conflict created in Remender’s first Uncanny X-Force volume. Psylocke, instead of strong and conflicted seems weak and gullible, while the triple division of Fantomex’s ego goes underdeveloped, which makes the entire issue feel thrown together.
The division of Fantomex’s brain into separate entities seems like a point of development that could save this story line. The idea that each of the three Fantomex characters feels a degree of love for Psylocke is a ridiculous attempt at creating a twisted, edgy love triangle. On the other hand, it may create an opportunity for Humphries to right a sinking ship and begin developing Psylocke as the strong, confident, yet conflicted character she deserves to be.
The art throughout the book, which is split between Adrian Alphona and Dalibor Talajic, is underwhelming. For much of the book all of the protagonists are dressed in Fantomex style outfits, which reduces the amount of character detail to full-body jumpsuits, ski-masks, and matching trench coats. When Psylocke is seen out of costume or supplemental characters are brought into a background, the art is more like a blurred rough sketch than a detailed final product.
I have enjoyed previous issues of Uncanny X-Force and it’s disappointing to see the characters going underdeveloped in both plot and art direction.