Here we are. The comic that made me care about the whole New 52 reboot in the first place, because I’d worry it was going to get in the way of Grant Morrison’s five-year Bat epic. But I’m playing my hand early. Read on, but beware of spoilers. (Guest-starring in today’s post is Michael Eckett, who described the two of us in an email last week as “the Batman and Robin of Reviews, Inc”. ‘Nuff said.)
Never let it be said that Alex-Spencer.co.uk is anything less than a site with its finger firmly on the geek pulse. We’re more timely than Doctor Who, more hip than a Ninja Turtle. So you’ll imagine our surprise that Earth Two – apparently the biggest Kahuna in the DC’s Second Wave of New 52 comics – slipped through our fingers (we must have been too busy keeping them pressed firmly to the aforementioned pulse). Blame Bret’s comic shop, blame DC, blame the strange timewarp that is the comics distribution system. But not one of these evil forces would sway our brave reporter, as he stepped into an alternative universe to investigate… Earth Two #1 Written by James Robinson Art by Nicola Scott And so it begins. Earth Two. Barely nine months into the New 52 and already we’re setting up the multidimensional mess which, at least I believed, DC were trying to avoid by relaunching all of their titles in the first place. Having said that, though, the book itself was actually rather good. Laid on a little thick and without any kind of subtlety to start – like meeting someone for the first time then listening to them brag about how awesome they are. It eventually won me over, but not straight away. The tone of the comic seemed to imply that reading the words ‘Parademons’, ‘Steppenwolf’ and ‘Apokolips War’ were meant to strike a nerve with us as if they meant something, rather than leave me unimpressed. Even the front cover proclaims ‘The Epic Begins!’ – a little presumptuous for my tastes. Luckily for them, a few pages in, the story was saved by the art work. The sheer level of detail made me stop and enjoy every frame. There’s a full 2 page spread early on featuring Superman, Wonder Woman and Bats all sticking it to these Parademon chaps, but in very individual ways. The personalities of the characters really come across in the little touches added to the art, which made up for the very generic dialogue and unimaginative writing. I think my main problem with the book is the fact that the majority of it was just an introduction to the universe, leaving what seems to be the beginning of the main story arc for the last four pages. Because of that, there’s really not much I can say about what I assume will be the book’s direction from now on, as all we got was a very simple origin story: Meet Normal Guy. Thing falls from sky. Normal Guy gets powers from Thing. But even that doesn’t really happen this issue. The rest of the book is a setup for what kind of world this new story will be told in. Even while reading, I was just waiting to finish so I could start the real story. It still managed to do some brave things, though, that I didn’t expect. Some landed – like the first thing Steppenwolf does when he appears – and some missed their target all together – like the attempt to humanise the soldiers by having them say they love each other before getting eaten. And don’t even get me started on what Batman says to Robin before the tower blows. All in all it was a pretty good read, but has left me no urge to carry on reading. Everything I would have wanted to see has already been done. FINAL GRADE: B
Earth Two is, by all accounts, the lynchpin of this mini-relaunch. Its cover features the biggest names that DC Comics has to offer, it crosses over into the (already-reviewed) World’s Finest, and it’s the all-action set up of a whole new universe. So, of course, we completely failed to review it until now. Consistently missing the boat on all the biggest pop-cultural happenings – that’s the Alex-Spencer.co.uk guarantee. Also, Bret’s comic shop failed, as comic shops so often do, to actually sell him the issue. But while they get the tiny gnome people that live behind the counter to piece it together pixel by pixel, here’s me doing my best Alan Moore and getting all grumpy about the industry.
World’s Finest. Now there’s a title that could just as easily refer to the dynamic duo of Tim Maytom and Alex Spencer as to Power Girl and the Huntress. Unfortunately, in this case, it mostly refers to the latter. Mostly.
Bret Canny steps up to the bat to lend a hand as we review Dial H #1, the Second Wave’s obligatory venture into Vertigo territory.
…and we’re back. You might remember Project 52, in which I gathered an elite group – Tim ‘Tumbln’ Maytom, Bret ‘The Enigma’ Canny, and Michael ‘Special Guest Star’ Eckett – in order to review every single one of the 52 #1 issues DC released as it rebooted its entire universe. Now, switching out some of its less successful titles – farewell, dear OMAC – DC has launched six new #1s – G.I. Combat, Earth Two, World’s Finest, Dial H for Hero, The Ravagers and Batman Incorporated. So we thought we’d get the band back together and review the hell out of some comics, in a double-bill, Avengers-vs-X-Men style. It is, as comics publishers are so fond of saying, the perfect jumping on point. So join us for… G.I. Combat #1 Written by J.T. Krul and Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti Art by Nick Olivietti and Dan Panosian Michael Reviews G.I. Combat #1 It was only upon Alex requesting that I review G.I. Combat for the second wave of Project 52 that I realised I’m not sure what G.I. stands for. And so I’ve gone in to reading G.I. Combat hoping to find the answer. Good idea? Well let’s get into it and find out. G.I. Combat #1 contains two stories, Krul and Olivietti’s ‘The War That Time Forgot’, in which the US army fights dinosaurs, and ‘The Unknown Soldier’, written by Gray and Palmiotti, with art from Panosian, about a scarred soldier of relentless malice, fuelled by revenge. ‘The War That Time Forgot’ goes by very quickly. After a very brief, rather bland character introduction, in which it’s established that one of our protagonists has a family and the other is his friend, we follow the US investigating an area of anomaly in North Korea. When they spot Pterodactyls, the grossly incompetent soldiers think it’s a good idea to shoot at the dinosaurs. This goes as well as one might imagine, leaving our not-so-gifted individuals stranded in the middle of a war between the North Korean army and dinosaurs. Luckily, whilst the dialogue isn’t to my liking, Ariel Ollivetti’s realistic artwork works well in a book filled with vehicles of destruction, giant Indosuchus [Indosuchi? – Plural Ed], Tyranosaurus Rex and Pterodactyls. His digital colouring might be jarring to those not used to it but it’s the best I’ve seen of his recent style. The characters’ faces are smooth and expressive and whilst previously his photo-referenced objects, like guns or backgrounds seemed to stick out from the figure work, they now blend together more. I find it hard to complain about anyone who draws a fighter jet tearing through a Pterodactyl, guts, intestines and blood spurting out the other side. ‘The Unknown Soldier’ is a standard origin story told through two narrative devices which don’t entirely mesh. We’re introduced to the Unknown Soldier as he ruthlessly and effectively kills Al-Qaeda soldiers, told through a US soldier’s letter home. A colonel then interviews the Unknown Soldier about his past, revealing his origins and the reason for his brutality. It functions similarly to a superhero origin and makes better use of its 14 pages than ‘The War That Time Forgot’, feeling more like a complete story. There’s a really nice touch of black humour at one point and a genuinely intriguing ending. Panosian’s art is kind of scratchy during moments of conflict but cleaner during flashbacks to a happier time in the Unknown Soldier’s life, making it quite effective. His action makes war chaotic but has few moments of depicted violence, often focusing more on the person shooting than who they’re shooting at. G.I. Combat #1 is a bit of a mixed bag, but there is something enjoyable there and it adds some diversity to the DC line whilst maintaining enough fantastical elements to stop it from feeling out of place. I still haven’t learnt what G.I. stands for though. I’m going with Gun Infested. FINAL GRADE: C+ Alex Reviews G.I. Combat #1 And it really is. From front cover – we’ll get to that in a moment – to back, G.I. Combat is guns, guns, guns. Manly men with gunly guns. Also, as my esteemed colleague pointed out, some dinosaurs. And then more guns. The cover is fairly lights on guns, though. FEATURING THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT, it boasts, over images of the aforementioned dinosaurs crushing war machinery (hell yes). Tucked away in one corner, next to a scowly-faced bandaged marine, it adds ALSO: THE DARK AND VIOLENT WORLD OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER (ick). With those exclamations and its double feature , it’s could almost be a comic you found at the bottom of a bargain bin, printed on yellowing paper with a great big DRAWING THE LINE AT 25¢ sticker peeling off the front. The cover makes a promise – comics like your grandaddy read. Of the two stories, ‘The War That Time Forgot’ keeps this promise best. It plays its premise straight, keeping its men serious, musclebound, and with conveniently humanising families (and guns!), trading lumpen banter, and its dinos helicopter-chewingly lethal. Unlike my comrade, I’m not familiar with Olivietti’s art – however, it shines through that this it isn’t the work of an artist/inker/colourist team, but a single hand. Everything is given a hard black outline, but the details are delicately picked out within that, in subtly differing shades of naturalistic colour. It’s a little static, but all rather stunning – at least, as long as you’re looking where the art wants you to be. The fit between the painterly faces (and dinosaurs, which look like they’ve come to life from Mars Attacks-style trading cards) and the computer-generated everything else is awkward to say the least. Those guns, of which you see so many, helicopters and even scenery have all been amateurishly SketchUpped into life, their smooth textures pasted on top, behind and in the hands of the impressive figurework. It all reaches a horrible climax at, well, the climax […]