The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Absolution’, ‘Exiles’ and ‘Buffy: Season 8’

absolution

For yesterday’s The Pull List, go here.

Absolution #1 – Avatar – $3.99

Score: 8.0

Back in early July, we had the chance to talk to Christos Gage about his creator owned property, Absolution, from Avatar Press. The interview can be read here.  This week, Absolution came to stores and delivered what people were hoping for from the title. Absolution takes a different approach to the superhero genre. Unlike Garth Ennis’ edgy work on The Boys which has superheroes as corrupt drug addicted sexual perverts, Gage reinvents the wheel as he poses the question about what could cause a hero to snap.

Unlike the “heroes” of The Boys, Gage’s hero John Dusk is actually a good person. He uses his powers to save the lives of innocents and defeat bad guys. There is no corporate backing or monetary gain for John by doing it. He is the equivalent of a super powered beat cop. And like some cops who have been on Special Victims Units or the homicide for too long, Absolution explores what it takes to break a man.

The issue begins with John Dusk, the spandex wearing hero seen on the cover of the issue, as he fights White Power, a superpowered white supremacist. John’s powers can be compared to a toned down version of the Green Lantern or the Invisible Woman as he controls his aura around him that allows him to make crude objects with it that can be used both offensively and defensively. When things take a turn for the worst in the fight, John must use lethal force to stop his assailant. Even knowing the criminal is a rapist and murder, John still tries to keep him from dying until he sees two of White Powers captives, causing him to make a decision he can never step back from.

The rest of the issue takes the reader through the after effects of John’s decision as it re-introduces them to his girlfriend Karen (who was featured in Absolution #0) and some of the memories of what John has seen in his time on the superpowered beat. Also introduced are some of John’s teammates on the force, Alpha, woman with apparent super strength and the Servant, a cross wearing crusader, as they work together to take down a meth lab just days after John’s White Power incident.

This is not a book for young readers. It is violent, bloody and contains nudity and harsh language. But none of it is for shock value. It all holds true to the world that has been laid out in front of the reader on the page. Aside from the super powered beings, the world feels real. Unlike the Marvel or DC world where the crimes usually involve bank robbery or some grand scheme to take over the planet, the world of John Dusk and Absolution has real criminals like one would see on television or read about in the paper, the kind that everyone knows is guilty but somehow gets off on a technicality or gets let out early on good behavior despite how terrible their crime was.

There’s something even scarier about villains like that since they can be so relatable. It also speaks to Gage’s ability to pull at the reader’s emotional strings that you are unable to completely disagree with John’s actions. Sure, we all know that killing is wrong but when you read this book, it makes you wonder what you’d do in the same situation, having seen so many terrible things in your career. While on the surface it could be seen as just another piece of violent pop culture, Absolution does a great job of making the reader think, something not often done enough lately in comics.

exilesExiles #5 – Marvel – $2.99

Score: 4.5

And so, this volume of Exiles comes ever closer to its early demise. Due to lacking sales, Jeff Parker announced on his blog that the series would end in a double-sized sixth issue next month, having only a third of the run length of the poorly received New Exiles series. It begs the question, what is it about this series that hasn’t been recaptured since the original Exiles one hundred issue run?

Try as they might, Clairemont’s run in New Exiles and Parker’s work in this second volume of Exiles have fallen upon a cold reception. Now with Clairemont off doing God knows what in X-Men forever free from any sort of rules or continuity, Exiles legacy falls on Parker. The original Exiles was a much loved series and that has been the only reason so few of us, its original readers, have clung on hoping for that magic to strike again. Sadly, it hasn’t.

This issue continues the tale as Blink, Polaris, the Witch, Panther, Beast and Forge after they had been captured by this reality’s versions of Ultron, Machine Man and the Vision who were all working under Cerebro trying to annihilate all organic life from the planet. The team finds out things are not always as they seem as they escape in hopes of stopping Cerebro. The team splits off in to two groups, further proving how weak the overall team’s character dynamics are as one half, Panther, the Witch and Polaris are fairly worthless to the overall story. Even Forge, Beast and Blink feel like they don’t belong in the story other than being the means for the machines in the story to reach their own ends.

To make matters worse, Blink still has kept her team in the dark that she is a former Exile and it is still yet to be explained why she has been placed on this team. From a creative perspective, Blink has also been torn down as a character by this volume of Exiles. She used to be a real leader, intelligent on the battlefield and able to bring back any team she lead from the brink of defeat. But in this series, they fail they first mission.

Looking back at the hundred issue run of Exiles, one of the saddest moments was seeing Blink leave the team and one of its happiest was seeing the reunion between her and Sabertooth as she came back. Now, there is still no explanation of what happened to the New Exiles team and how the story bridges to this. Just out of fan service, hopefully the final issue can answer that much for us.

The art style does nothing to help the book as well. While it is well drawn, it doesn’t fit the Exiles. The Exiles have gone through a lot of dark moments, between losing teammates in the course of duty to making hard decisions to save reality to being forced to leave newly found loves. But not this version of the team. It’s been all hugs and puppies and even when they fail, nothing that bad really happens. It’s only the fate of reality that hangs in the balance of the team’s success.

That lack of serious consequence may have played a part in the demise of this series. It will be bittersweet to see it end next month. Knowing the dragging of its name through the mud will be comforting despite the knowledge that under the right team it had been so much more.

buffyBuffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #27 – Dark Horse – $2.99

Score: 7.0

After a series of recent one shots and focus on some of the auxiliary characters like Giles and Faith, Jane Espenson pens a story continuing the main arc that the season has revolved around, Twilight. No, not the emo-ridden vampire movie but instead the villain that emerged two years ago when season 8 was launched in comic form. Along with the help of the skinless Warren and witch Amy, Twilight and his followers track Buffy, the Scoobies and the Slayers who have just teleported themselves and the submarine they were in to Mongolia to find one person who may be able to help them, Oz.

After years of waiting since his final appearance on the television show, Buffy fans finally found out where he has been. After knowing the danger he was to his friends back in Sunnydale because of his lycanthropic tendencies in season four, Oz ended up on Mongolia in search of peace. There he worked with others in controlling the wolf inside him. Now, knowing that the demon magic in them is what makes them so easily traceable by the demons hunting them, the slayers turn to Oz (who doesn’t look anything like Seth Green as he is drawn in the book) to help them control it for their safety.

A lot has changed for the Buffy world since Sunnydale became a giant sinkhole at the end of the television series. The change has been a blessing to the story in some ways as there are some things that can only be done in comics that would have looked silly on television. This issue for example would have looked poor on television as the werewolves always were one of the weakest special effects in the series. They often looked more like very hairy apes running down the halls instead of wolves. It’s also great to see original writers from the Buffy show like Joss and Jane taking the reins of the comic.

The characters feel like nothing has changed. While they have evolved and grown, it’s still the same bubbly but headstrong Buffy along the awkward yet responsible Xander. It is also nice to see the story get back on track instead of focusing on the smaller one-shots. I understand that it worked well as a change of pace during the television series but it seems to make the whole process last a lot longer in comics since new issues are only once a month (or two months in some cases) as opposed to TV where it was only a week later.

All that said, this issue feels much like the second segment of a TV episode, a lot of the exposition is gotten out of the way to set up for the bigger fight that is mounting. Oz’s recap takes up a majority of the issue as well so not much of consequence happens just yet to our main characters. These issues especially read stronger in a collected trade format but for those of us who can’t wait five months for a full “episode” to come out, we turn to the monthly issues for our Buffy fix. For any true Buffy fan, these are a must read and a good alternative for those looking to branch out from superhero comics but not quite ready yet for the likes of Strangers In Paradise or Y: The Last Man.

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