Action Comics #35, Wonder Woman #34, Captain America #25 – Short Comic Review

While I’m on vacation for three weeks, I’ve put together a short round up of comics published this week. I’ll return to full reviews on October 11, 2014.

Action Comics #35

The comic opens with Superman flying through space, and closes with Lois Lane starring directly out at the reader, saying “you don’t understand Superman at all”. The last few pages of the comic are narrated by Lane’s article. While Clark Kent might be disillusioned and depressed following his recent Doomsday infection – not to mention the guilt he is feeling after meeting with Lana Lang back in Smallville – Lane argues that Superman needs Earth and it’s people. Superman might appear to bring monsters and destruction, but he inspires us to be better. In turn, people inspire Superman to be a better, stronger, and faster hero.

It’s an interesting story. Superman is not up on a pedestal. He’s a part of the world, and an important part that keeps everything moving forward. Also worth seeing is a page where the heroes of Metropolis are seen helping the city recover from a recent attack by Brainiac. The young shapeshifter Baka returns. Supergirl saves small family from falling cement. Moreover, a page shows police officers and the Metropolis fire service working to save the city – a tribute to their service.

Wonder Woman #34

There’s some great ideas and insights into what it means to be a god in this issue. Wonder Woman also struggles with a tough question. She wants to be peaceful, however she has been selected as the new god of war, and her family is under attack from the powerful villain known as The First Born.

Hera says that human life, to her, is like watching television. The characters mean little to her, ultimately, and the episodes are relatively short. Zola is not impressed. Eris, god of chaos, laughs at Hera for her detached point of view. Meanwhile Wonder Woman, faces the question: stay true to her peaceful ideas, or use violence, and fight a war against the first born. This is escalated to the brink of no return, where she cannot reason or argue her enemy out of his war with the gods.

Hera makes a decisions. She shows restraint, and something a bit like kindness to Wonder Woman, Zola, Orion, and several other cast members. Hera, Eris, and Wonder Woman also have some of the best wordplay in the comic. There’s some interesting moments in the artwork, when monsters are transformed into crystal statues, and giant, elephant mechs charge into battle.

Captain America #25

The new Captain America arrives in this issue. Jet Black endures drama. Even her brother Ian questions her motives, her rejection of Arnim Zola, and her friendship with Captain America. The pain drawn on her face is powerfully executed when accusations are thrown at her.

Arnim Zola returns to dimension Z in a brilliant flash of white and blue light. Later, Captain America and the avengers enter into another situation of extreme pressure – a dinner party at Avengers Mansion with all of the current Avengers teams (except the Young Avengers and Secret Avengers) and X-factor. These scenes have several back-and-forth comedy moments between characters. Artwork here is highly colourful. Hyperion’s head to body proportion may need adjustment, however.

A full page artwork introduces the new Captain America.

An epilogue reintroduces an old threat – Hydra believe now is the time to start drawing plans against the new Captain America.

Wonder Woman #32 – Comic Review

Wonder Woman #32 proves again that it’s essential reading: A great super hero comic, and a story for anyone interested in mythology.

Emphasising the gods as a family allows Wonder Woman to show loyalty and guardianship toward her supernatural family.

What Wonder Woman#30 offers:

  • The pantheon of gods shown off in this issue have strong character and costume designs
  • Action scenes convey motion across panels
  • A theme of guardianship communicated through Wonder Woman’s selflessness

This comic celebrates a pantheon of Greek Myth in its characters, and the art work that has gone into their designs. Action is several scenes also flows across panels.

The comic celebrates the pantheon of Greek Myth. Each figure in the pantheon had a role, a purpose, and a skill set attributed to them. In this issue, their role as representatives of greater, essential forcers that are facts of living on the earth; Life and Death, the Ocean and the Sky, Chaos and Desire; Messages carried through the air; the moon, the sun, and parenthood. All powerful forces that define us.

Design choices in the artwork for each god are effective. For example: Eros wears a long scarf, and wields gold guns, and Demeter’s hair is closely knotted leaves – a pattern of flowing tree roots spreads across her face.

Then there are the new gods: Wonder Woman herself wears red armour, and ties back her hair in this issue. Her costume features strongly plated armour. The First Born remains zombified. He’s essentially a grisly and bloody corpse, ranting about his power.

Action scenes establish movement across panels. Characters leap through the air, running toward and away from threats.

The First Born begins a coordinated attack on the Gods of Olympus. Wonder Woman continues to champion diversity.

The First Born is the key villain here. A long neglected son of the Zeus and Hera, First Born seeks to destroy his entire family of magical deities. His revenge is the driving force of the story. He is uncomfortable with vulnerability, however, which becomes clear after he encounters Eris, the goddess of chaos.

Wonder Woman still believes in, and embraces diversity. Last issue made that clear. She made a progressive step forward – telling the exclusive Amazon community they must change their long held beliefs, and accept a baby boy onto the island community. Her actions made a strong comment about diversity and change, and were comparable to the real world problem of exclusion and lack of female representation in a misogynist community. Showing deeper vulnerabilities, she asks Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods, if she is making the right decisions.

Wonder Woman defends Demeter from harm. She tells the other gods on the run from the First Born to flee, while she faces the enemy. Her selflessness builds a theme of guardianship

Wonder Woman #32 shows Diana as a defender, and a warrior for those who cannot defend themselves. Demeter is the Greek god of harvest and life, and being the sister of Poseidon and Hades, she is a major target of the First Born’s attack on the gods. Demeter is a peaceful character. Wonder Woman steps in to protect her. Not only does she defend Demeter, she tells the other gods to retreat to safety. This selflessness builds a theme of guardianship.

Wonder Woman faces the First Born alone, and in a burning forest. A cliffhanger to close this section of the story.

Wonder Woman #30 is published by DC Comics ($2.99 USD). Brian Azzarello (W.) Cliff Chiang (B.D) Goran Sudzuka (A.) Matthew Wilson (C.) Jared K. Fletcher (L.) Cover Artwork by Cliff Chiang.

Wonder Woman #30 – Comic Review

Wonder Woman has risen to new authority over the past story arc. Now returned to her home, she has changed, but faces a stilted and traditional society. Wonder Woman#30 embraces equality with a strong statement about change.

What Wonder Woman#30 offers:

  • Great colour choices and use of perspective that show the reader tone and mood.
  • investigating Wonder Woman’s responsibly and success.
  • A strong statement about the problems of old ways of living, and equality.

This review contains some minor spoilers.

The colour of the sky gives clues about the tone of each scene in the comic: Blue for clarity, Grey for danger, and Indigo for thoughtfulness. On the river Styx, Hades summons an army of bleached white souls. They form a startling and enormous wall behind him.

Magic and energy pulse from the gods that dominate the story. Hera’s emerald powers cause her eyes to glow – there is no doubt of her strength in this comic book.

Perspective establishes power. Wonder Woman stands on a balcony overlooking the amazons. The First Born has built a squishy, awful looking platform on which to stare down at the captured Cassandra. Perspective in these scenes shows the characters new authority. There is also a strong sense of space, and no scene feels cluttered.

Wonder Woman has solved many problems, and overcome harsh obstacles to save her friend Zola, and the baby Zeke. With new responsibility, Wonder Woman must confront unexpected challenges: including the effects of her own success.

A large part of the comic deals with the problems of Wonder Woman’s success.

Her sisters on paradise island are restored to life. Hera is restored to her state as a goddess, and no longer a burden.

The First Born has control of Olympus, but has also captured and neutralised another dangerous villain, Cassandra, in the process.

With no clear leader, Wonder Woman is given the title of “Queen”. Such success surrounds her. She is the God of War, and Queen of the Amazons. But with this new pressure, there are more problems. In this comic, we see Wonder Woman succeeding under pressure.

And there is pressure: The Amazons of paradise island do not trust Diana. Not an easy problem to solve when several dangerous and flighty gods are strolling around the island (Hera, Hermes, Dionysus, Artemis.)

There is a second problem on top of that: no boys or men, young or old, are allowed on paradise island. Zeke is Zola’s son. Yet another threat has appeared against Zola and her baby: The Amazons themselves.

Wonder Woman takes an extraordinary step to solve that problem.

Within all this stress, there is a calm moment: Zola wants to leave paradise island (she knows Zeke is in danger), and Wonder Woman agrees: It’s what she wanted once.

Despite the comic missing some action, a strong statement about equality appears. Wonder Woman strikes out against stifling traditions

As their new Queen, Wonder Woman has the Amazons pledge their lives to the protection of Zeke, a baby boy.

This step crosses their old traditions of valuing one gender over another. Wonder Woman asks: does this tradition benefit or weaken our society?

This is a strong story about challenging and changing tradition. It holds up a mirror to the real world. Where equality can be just as disparate between men and women. For example, the recent critique of Teen Titans #1 cover artwork, and the threatening, and inappropriate responses that followed.

Writing for Comics Alliance, Andy Khouri made several strong points about women, men, and gender equality in the comics industry.  Just as Zeke, a boy, needs to be accepted on paradise island, the real world community needs more equality. That’s the statement Wonder Woman makes here.

It’s contained within a strong story, with fantasy and magic elements. While it may lack action and combat story elements that make Wonder Woman a strong comic book, the statements made here are worth reading.

Wonder Woman #30 is published by DC Comics ($2.99 USD). Brian Azzarello (W.) Gorian Sudzuka (A.) Andrew Wilson (C.) Jared K. Fletcher (L.) Cover Artwork by Cliff Chiang.

Villains Month – Comics Review

Villains Month

DC comic’s villains month, spreading across all of titles published in September, has continued the new tradition of an event in September, and introduced new and old villains to readers worldwide.

After reading through several villains month comics, I found that the comic stories fell into a similar pattern. In a first person narration, the Villain either guides the reader through an early point in their lives that defined them, or they guide the reader through a segment of their current plans after the events of Trinity War and Forever Evil.

Something about this pattern created, I thought, a lighter story. As a result, combining three villains month comics might yield a bit more content to write about. What follows are profiles of three villains month comics starring The Outsider, The Riddler, and First Born – a trio of villains who are very close to the Crime Syndicate, only loosely associated with them, and completely separate from them respectively.

The Crime Syndicate. Artwork by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Eber Ferreira and Rod Reis.

 

Continue Reading

Comic Review – Wonder Woman #21

Wonder Woman #21: Flesh and Stone

(Some minor spoilers for Wonder Woman #21 follow)

Wonder Woman leaps to the defense of her friends and family, and a villain defies the laws of science fiction physics in his relentless attack. The First One has caught up with Wonder Woman, and he wants to bring the world to an end. He needs Zola’s son Zeke – the last born. The battle between Zeus children accelerates.

Reading through the actions scenes is like being swept up in an orange and red-yellow lightening storm. The First One towers over the other cast, and he makes this fight terr0r-streaked with his brute force.

Orion swoops in to help out. He, Lennox (another of Zeus’ kids), and Wonder Woman try for an escape through a portal in space. The First one proves too powerful, however, as he grasps the closing portal, and holds it open – a feat that should be impossible.

Art

Orion opens a portal called a “boom tube”. It’s technology from his home dimension – New Genesis. The artwork as the characters travel through the boom tube is incredible. Blurred red and blue lines create a visual effect inside the wormhole tunnel that vibrates – it’s like the older red and blue 3D effects. Lettering during the action scenes is powerful, and evokes a deeper sense of action, which is further enhanced by the expert colouring.

Characters

Wonder Woman defends Hera from The First One, who slaps Hera off panel. She responds to his violence: “judging by what I saw…you have this coming”. She then wastes no time in fighting The First One off. Her actions raise ideas about protecting elders, women, and children from violence.

Orion fights for different reasons. He has a mission and is ruthless. Wonder Woman states that he fights “like an animal”. This shows the difference between Wonder Woman and other brawlers in comic books. She fights to protect, and does not use excessive violence.

Ethics and Values

Wonder Woman’s actions prompt questions: is violence an acceptable response to protect those in danger? Or does more violence just extend a cycle of fighting?

Despite being an action fueled comic book, Wonder Woman #21 makes a statement about violence toward elders, woman, and children – under no circumstance should it be tolerated. Orion even states, when attacking The First One “you’ve made a huge mistake”.

The characters in the comic book certainly don’t fit with pure, non-violent philosophies, and are an example of the ongoing problem of using violence to stop violence – particularly Orion. But the comic itself stands up as critical of larger problems in our society.

Wonder Woman #21 could align with the third principal of non-violence written by Martin Luther King Jr in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom: “attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil” is the third of six principals. The comic attacks tolerance of violence. The comic also judges the perpetrators of violence – they are as misguided as the villain, The First One, who lets his past trauma dictate his actions as an adult.

Cassandra, who allows The First One to strike Hera without comment, also lets her past influence her choices. Cassandra lets The First One threaten Hera – bystanders who let violence happen are therefore also making a mistake.

 A bit more on Wonder Woman #21

Historically, Wonder Woman has had key moments of being a role model. I think that her defense of Zolo, Hera, and the Baby Zeke show courage that can be looked up to.

Wonder Woman #21 is Published by DC comics. Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Cliff Chiang. Colourist: Mathew Wilson. Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher.