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The Comics Corner - Week of 12/21/2011

The Comics Corner
Welcome to the Comics Corner! Its Christmas time and the last regular Comics Corner of the year. We’ve got seven members of the Justice League (yes, finally all seven!), five comics, four ninja turtles, three separate reboots, two Spider-Man comics and a Batman in Gotham City. Next week we’ll look back at the best of 2011 and this week may very be a preview of things to come with plenty from the DC New 52, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series as well as the finishing touches on the origin of the new Ultimate Spider-Man! What’s the best of 2011? You can find out next week, true believer! Until then come inside and reveal the mystery of the Top of the Stack!/span>

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5

5 Stars

“Quite literally, a game of cat and mouse.”

I recently had the honor of sitting down with PCN’s own Turtle expert, Suine Hallock, to discuss the first four issues, and the Raphael one-shot, of this new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. If issue five, the first in a new story arc, is any indication Suine and I are going to have a lot to talk about the next time we get together to discuss TMNT!

Raphael has been reunited with his brothers and the focus moves from the four turtles to their ‘father’ and sensei, Splinter. The changes made to the origins of the Ninja Turtles have been drastic as well as entertaining. The changes to Splinter were sure to be equally extreme but I was not at all prepared for what this issue revealed.

The story, told by Splinter himself, is instantly familiar to any Turtle fan. The rivalry between two ninja masters, Hamato Yoshi and Oroku Saki. But how this story, set in feudal Japan, connects to Splinter the rat and his four turtles is an absolute mystery.

But concerns on how the two seemingly unconnected stories fit together are soon lost in the sheer entertainment this issue delivers. Splinter’s story is a sprawling revenge epic with more than several hints at events to come as well as to the Turtles themselves. And speaking of the green teens, Raphael is fitting in splendidly with his long-lost brothers. Raphael is a natural and is soon at the same skill level as the other three, earning him his new weapons, a pair of sais.

I was more than a little surprised to see the Turtles don the cartoon-style colored masks. I’m not sure if I liked it or not – on one hand I think it’s brilliant but I liked the nod to the original with them all sporting red masks. As with all things in this new series, it was the same but different.

Readers will also catch their first sighting of April since the ninja attack on the science lab and the mutation of Splinter and the Turtles. (Phrases like: ‘the ninja attack on the science lab’ would sound silly anywhere else. Here, they fit perfectly and it’s wonderful.) The groundwork is set in this issue for April to soon meet up with Casey Jones, which may soon reunite her with the turtles.

But that’s me getting ahead of myself. While there are many familiar elements to this new story, it’s important to remember that these are not the same ol’ Turtles. Anything can happen in this new beginning. Splinter’s tale proves that.

The new series continues to offer an exceptional entertainment value. Anything featuring the Ninja Turtles would have been appreciated but this goes far beyond a quickly thrown together comic to feed off a nostalgic market. This is a well-conceived and thought provoking reboot that has fans of the Heroes on the Half Shell, including yours truly, rooting for more.

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Amazing Spider-Man #676

2 Stars

“Think “Big Bang Theory”, but evil.”

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this issue.

First, despite the title – there is no Spider-Man. No Spider-Man in the Amazing Spider-Man. Not that that hasn’t happened before, but it still can be weird. So no Spidey and we’ve got a whole lot of bad guys fighting bad guys as Dr. Octopus and the rest of the Sinister Six take on MODOK and the Intellegencia. I’m always up for some Sinister Six action – but again, it usually involves the Wall Crawler.

Adding to the issues’ general weirdness – a lot of character die in this issue. A whole lot of characters actually. The Winter Guard (essentially Russia’s Fantastic Four), the Wizard, the Mad Thinker and an Awesome Android (or perhaps the Awesome Android (is there more than one?)) and the Red Ghost are all killed. While I realize these aren’t exactly A-list characters it seems completely bizarre to kill-off so many characters in a filler issue of Amazing Spider-Man that was devoid of its title character. In fact, in the end even the other members of the Sinister Six are left pondering the reason for everything that just took place.

According to Doc Ock himself, the Sinister Six was eliminating the competition so that they could take over the world in 2012. Spider-Man against the Sinister Six is always a good time. But that’s no excuse for this sort of issue. If you’re going to get weird – go all out. Bring back the Fabulous Frog-Man or make Aunt May the Herald of Galactus again, don’t half ass it. Embrace the weird. Oh, and have Spider-Man be in it.

Batman #4

4 Stars

“I don’t scare easily.”

This was certainly an unexpected turn of events.

I have absolutely loved this series since it began – four long issues ago. The story, a secret society controlling Gotham City that even Batman was unaware of, has been crafted to near perfection building on the city’s history and it’s most powerful families as well as re-establishing Batman as the ultimate protector of that city.

But now there appear to be cracks in the armor.

But they’re small cracks, nothing too damaging. This is still a solid four-star issue but there are flaws. First, there is the art of Greg Capullo. At least as it pertains to his work on characters, most notably their faces. I know many people focus on the similarities between Bruce Wayne and the mayoral candidate of Gotham. But it wasn’t until Dick Grayson came into this issue that it really started to bother me too. I had been holding out hope that there was a reason that Bruce and the would-be mayor looked so much alike. But after seeing Bruce next to Dick, the similarities, in all of Capullo’s faces, started to become a distraction. However I have absolutely no complaint on anything else Capullo has done with this series.

Then there’s the ending. Writer Scott Snyder may be trying to pay homage to classic Silver Age comics but I’m not buying into the end of this issue. For me, it’s far too goofy and over-the-top to fit into what to this point, has been a grounded and gritty new series.

As a whole Batman is still a terrific series but this issue shows that no series is perfect and even the best of them stumble. Here’s hoping that Batman is able to bounce back from this issue and that ridiculous cliffhanger. More mysteries surrounding the city of Gotham and reveals of Bruce’s life following the death of his parents would be most welcome in the next issue.

Justice League #4

4 Stars

“Most of what I do is about trying to impress people.”

Let’s get this out of the way first: I think I actually like Darkseid’s new look.

I know that sound blasphemous but as an update it could be worse. He’s still recognizable as Darkseid and I certainly won’t miss the mini-skirt.

Four issues into the series, the entire group is finally together and the interaction and banter between the characters is still highly enjoyable. Writer Geoff Johns’ determination to revitalize Aquaman and keep him from being a joke continues with Aquaman attempting to insert himself as the leader of the new group and showcases that the ability to communicate with fish – and sharks – isn’t lame at all. Batman and Green Lantern both have a desire to prove themselves as they argue with Aquaman on who should lead while Superman and Flash play up the hero role and Wonder Woman just wants to fight.

Everything from the massive battles and high number of characters and everything right up to Darkseid’s dramatic reveal, demonstrates the undeniable talent of artist Jim Lee. Yes, some of the new character designs, all created by Lee, will take some getting used to. Provided they last long enough for fans to have that chance and not everyone will like the revamped looks for Darkseid and Cyborg, who finally makes his full appearance in this issue, but there’s no denying the artist’s talent. Colossal splash pages and high energy action sequences remind readers what Lee is capable of.

Darkseid’s arrival was exciting with every indication that the forthcoming battle and eventual formation of the Justice League will be just as terrific.

Ultimate Spider-Man #5

5 Stars

“You put on that costume; you have to pay the price.”


Knockout punch!

As he did the first time writer Brian Michael Bendis is taking his sweet time delivering the origin story of the ultimate version of Spider-Man. And this is the issue we’ve all been waiting for. Miles, cheap Halloween Spider-Man costume and all, is introduced to the larger Ultimate Universe and finally gets into some proper action.

One the highlights of the first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man was the relationship that Nick Fury had with Peter Parker. I’m thrilled to learn that that dynamic will remain with Miles’ tenure as Spider-Man. Their conversation is terrific, everything you’d want in a first encounter between these two characters. The benefit of Bendis taking his time setting up the origin and the character of Miles is that we already feel like we know him and that we knew that this is how the first ‘talk’ with Fury would go.

And thanks to a convenient break-out attempt by Electro, a villain Peter Parker also fought early in his crime-fighting career, we finally get to see Miles in action. All of the familiar spider-powers are on display and its great fun to see the new powers being implemented into Mile’s unique style.

Quite simply – this was a terrific origin for a tremendous new character. Bendis has built Miles up into something special over the last five issues and now we’re all ready to swing into action for a new set of adventures with an all-new Spider-Man.

  Agree? Disagree? Discuss this in our forum!

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