The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Captain America Reborn’, ‘Batman and Robin’ and ‘Star Wars: Invasion’

Captain-America-Reborn-01-smallCaptain America Reborn #1 – Marvel – $3.99

Score: 6.5

This review doesn’t have to do with the fact that Marvel is bringing back Steve Rogers, something many people are opposed to. Instead, it is based on the merits of the issue itself and how well the story inside is told, even if the central idea isn’t a popular one. The issue starts off with Steve Rogers giving a quick speech as he and the other soldiers get ready to storm Normandy on June 6th, 1944. D-Day. It flashes back to the present where Bucky-Cap and the Black Widow storm one of the H.A.M.M.E.R. helicarriers.

At the same time as Bucky and the Black Widow make their way through hordes of H.A.M.M.E.R. agents, the Vision, the Falcon and Sharon Carter, the woman who shot the fatal point blank bullets in to Steve Rogers, go talk to Henry Pym where Sharon admits her involvement in Steve’s death while under the control of the Red Skull and Armin Zola. She then begins to tell the details of that day that make her believe that Steve Rogers still might be able to be brought back. Back on the helicarrier, Bucky and the Black Widow search for an item that played a part in that fateful day one year ago when Steve was killed, only to be intercepted by Ares and Venom of Norman Osborn’s Avengers team.

And, as expected, an explanation of what just happened to Steve Rogers on that very day is explained in full, playing off the events of Captain America #600 and filling in the details that were left unspoken until now after Sharon began to remember all of the events of that day. Unfortunately, unlike Captain America #600, there were no creepily sexual cameos from the disturbed Crossbone and Sinn couple.

The issue itself feels very lean. Like even though there are supposed to be some big reveal moments, the idea that Steve is coming back isn’t a brand new idea in the minds of the reader and the events of Captain America #600 have shown the seeds of how it could happen. The pages with Sharon, Falcon, Vision and Hank Pym talking are pretty boring because of this as it is almost entirely old information and the new information doesn’t prove to be impactful enough to back it up. Norman Osborn, along with a “secret guest”, have a quick appearance that has much of the same lackluster effect.

The weight of the book in terms of quality is unfortunately carried by the action pages with Steve’s flashback scenes as well Bucky and Black Widow fighting the H.A.M.M.E.R. agents. While normally some books suffer from a lack of action and focus too much on character and storytelling, this book should be just that. There should be a stronger emphasis on the overall story of how Steve is going to be brought back and have it old in a more impactful manner.

While the war scenes fit from Steve’s past, the modern day Cap’s fight seemed unnecessary and only left for a “cliffhanger” about what will happen when Bucky-Cap and Black Widow square off against Ares and Venom. In all honestly, of any combination of combatants, those four may have the least overall appeal of seeing them go at it.

With what feels like an average comic book story, it only felt appropriate that the artwork was average as well. The first glance at the H.A.M.M.E.R. uniforms, which are different here than they are in any other book, was reminiscent of Cobra shock troopers from the G.I. Joe cartoons, and not in a good way. Some of the backgrounds also feel rushed and lack any detail or proper anatomy from some of the characters. Sharon Carter seems to be the downfall of the issue as her body looks completely unreal, and not in a good way.

She looks anorexic and lanky, completely the opposite of what you’d expect from a woman who was the lover at one point to America’s greatest hero. To counter that at least, the flashback pages are beautiful in their detail like much of the Captain America series had been leading up to this point. There are a few pages, very reminiscent of Cap’s debut in the Ultimates as well.

Overall, Captain America Reborn did not live up to the hype for its first issue. Maybe that’s why Captain America #600 got so much promotion from Marvel as they knew that of the two, it would be the stronger book. There is something to be said for the way this story has unfolded. The fact that Brubaker knew he’d be bringing back from the very start and made sure the set pieces were actually present in the entire series instead of retconning them in shows the kind of forward thinking that Brubaker has as a story teller.

A similar example would be Brian Bendis planting seeds for the Secret Invasion since the very first issue of New Avengers, which can be debated as being a positive or negative depending on who you talked to. I’m sure this series will have the same effect as diehard fans may argue Steve’s resurrection regardless of how the rest of the series goes. The safest thing to say at the moment is the jury is still out on this miniseries. Ed Brubaker has shown himself to be an incredibly talented storyteller and people would be remiss not to give him a fair shake telling this tale that he has been weaving.

star-wars-invasion-coverStar Wars: Invasion #1 – Dark Horse Comics – $2.99

Score: 7.5

It’s been 25 years since Luke Skywalker and a band of rebels destroyed the second Death Star and the Emperor’s reign came to an end. Since then, the new Republic has been established and Luke Skywalker now leads the Jedi Order, training new Jedi as they emerge from around the galaxy. This series picks up one a little known planet known as Artorias as a new enemy emerges after the demise of the Sith, the Yuuzhan Vong. The Yuuzhan Vong are a large, hostile, ruthless and all around not very nice alien warrior race. S

adly, for the people of Artorias, they have no defense force set up to defend against this invading force. Before the attack begins, Finn, a young man, is yelled at by his father for the risks he takes, like doing one handed handstands on the edge of their roof. They discuss how his mother and sister went to the market and he passed on the chance when an explosion is heard and the invasion begins with the Yuuzhan Vong slaughtering anything in their sights.

Finn’s father, a veteran of the battle of Hoth, has his son come with him as he begins to help evacuate as many of the people as he can and search for his wife and daughter at the same time. Before the issue ends, the cover boy of the Star Wars franchise shows up to help give a hint at the direction the rest of the story looks to take.

While not as great as the Holy Trilogy, Star Wars: Invasion is still levels above the blasphemous prequel movies that sullied the series some ten years ago. Like much of the expanded Star Wars universe literature that has been put out, this comic does a great job representing the Yuuzhan Vong as a legitimate threat. Their attack is nothing short of malicious and unwarranted hatred for all things different for them, including their methods to ensure as many victims as possible on the planet.

Unlike seeing Stormtroopers who would knock themselves out or become cannon fodder, the Yuuzhan Vong come across as a strong threat that look to make the lives of Finn terrible in the coming issues. The only negative to the storytelling comes in the tale’s similarity to Star Wars: Dark Times where an invasion of Slavers leaves one of the main characters searching for his wife and child who have been taken captive.

The artwork in the issue resembles that style of much of the previous Star Wars series with crisp lines and realistic portrayals of characters like a twenty-five year old Luke Skywalker. The wardrobe of the episode actually stood out as Finn’s sister looks more like a character from a modern comic as opposed to a late teen/early twenties girl from a galaxy far, far away. In one panel in particular, the first shot of the Yuuzhan Vong warrior standing over her, she actually looks like Buffy the Vampire Slayer from behind, except for the knee pad built in to her bright red cargo pants. That aside, the style fits the issue very well between its battle scenes, the portrayal of the Yuuzhan Vong and their use of serpent-like creatures as weapons. (No, like literally they throw snake looking things at people like spears.)

The issue doesn’t do anything to greatly stand out from the crowd but is a fun Star Wars comic for fans of the expanded universe. Without previous knowledge of the alien race, a reader might not have any idea just how dangerous and overwhelming this race can become. (At one point in one of the novels, the Yuuzhan Vong actually take the entire capital planet of Coruscant and kill some of Jedi children of Leia and Han.

But so far, the issue has started to plant the seeds on just how much of a threat they are. Finn, while not thoroughly explored yet, has the potential to be a good leading character in the series even though he will be most likely upstaged simply by Luke Skywalker’s appearance in any issue. But as long as the series contains no pod races or characters that say, “Meesa Jar Jar Binks,” it’s a pretty safe bet that it will still be an enjoyable read based on what’s seen in this issue.

batman-robin-coverBatman and Robin #2 – DC – $2.99

Score: 7.5

Being new to the DC Universe, this issue left me thinking, “Wow. Bruce Wayne fathered one hell of a bastard.” Damien Wayne, whether he is the new Robin or not, is one of the most unlikable characters I’ve read and so far I have only read two books ever featuring him. I was glad to see him take an ass kicking two times in this issue. Picking up with the very first meeting with the new Batman, Dick Grayson, and new Robin, Damien, with Commissioner Gordon, Dick tries to act as if he still is the real Batman since the public doesn’t know that Bruce Wayne was killed in Final Crisis.

During this meeting though, there is attack on the police station from Le Cirque D’Etrange consisting of Siamese Triples, a man whose face is on fire and a fat man in a tutu. Batman heads down with Robin to stop them only to find out his teamwork with Damien would love something to be desired. Damien’s headstrong ways result in him taking a little bit of a pounding before abandoning Dick during a fight with the triplets to go after the fat tutu man on his own. Obviously, this leads to some friction from Batman as Robin is directly disobeying his orders during a fight.

This gap between the two broadens as Batman catches up to Robin to find him beating the tutu man in order to interrogate him, even while at gunpoint from Commissioner Gordon and the other officers. Back at home, Batman and Robin have a blowout argument with each other, resulting in Robin leaving. Dick turns to the only one he thinks can help him understand what he is going through, the man who watched him put Bruce through the same thing. Alfred. The two share an emotional scene where they think back to Bruce and how he would have felt about Dick wearing the cowl.

While the story so far has been really good and compelling, there is a level of “Didn’t I read this before?” about it. Though the circumstances are different with Damien being involved in the dynamic, this Batman story has a lot of similarities to Captain America when Bucky took over the role for Steve Rogers. Both men, former sidekicks, try to take on their mentor’s identity for the sake of the public and feeling like they are coming up short. Regardless, it is still an interesting story to see play out on the page as there probably isn’t anyone who could ever really fill Bruce Wayne’s shoes.

At the same time, Robin doesn’t try to be Bruce which makes the story believable. He only tries to be Batman in the public’s eye. Once the cowl comes off, he knows who he is and who he isn’t. The one time he does try to act Bruce’s role when he yells at Damien, he even knows how fake it sounds. This issue also helps remind people who Alfred is such a beloved character. For those new to the characters and have only known them from the movies and cartoon, there are some great character building moments in this issue to help acclimate both new and old reader alike to the change in relationship that Alfred now has with Dick since Bruce’s passing.

Frank Quitely’s gritty style is a great fit for Grant Morrison’s writing. Something about the characters, except for the clean and crisp pencils of Batman and Robin, just feels dirty. The achingly gross detail of Quietely’s art further emphasizes the need for Batman and Robin to get together to clean up the mess that has become Gotham City since Bruce’s demise.

Thus far, Morrison’s run on Batman and Robin is a good one. With the appearance of a new villain that has a horrifying mind instead of going back to the rogue’s gallery which would have been an easier solution, Morrison has shown he wants to continue to move the characters forward instead of just sticking to the past.

At the same time, he shows respect to the past with various references and the amount of respect that Dick has for the costume (which obviously Morrison feels the same way). Will Dick Grayson wear the cowl forever? Probably not. Most likely when the next Batman movie hits theaters, Bruce Wayne will be back from the dead. But until then, it looks to be an enjoyable ride with a new hero wearing the cowl for the time being.

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