The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Blackest Night’, ‘Uncanny X-Men’ and ‘G.I. Joe Special: Helix’

Pull of the Week:

Blackest913817-2_super Night #2 – DC – $3.99

Score: 8.0

As mentioned yesterday in Dave Press’ Weekly Comic Book Recommendations,  this was a big week for DC’s Blackest Night event between Blackest Night #2, Blackest Night: Batman #1 and Green Lantern Corps #39. A previous Pull of the Week with issue #1, Blackest Night #2 continues the eerie first chapter of this horror tale.

After Hawkman and Hawkgirl have been attacked and killed by the Black Lanterns Elongated Man and Sue Dibny, the Atom desperately begs for Hawkman to pick up the phone unaware of his fate. Over in Gotham, Commissioner Gordon stands atop the police headquarters next to the Bat-Symbol with his daughter Barbara awaiting sunrise before Hal Jordan lands on it as a result of his fight with Martian Manhunter.

In Amnesty Bay, Mera and Tempest, the wife and son of Aquaman look to move their king’s remains to the sea only to find the grave desecrated. Thinking they are witnessing a graverobbing, the duo along with guards from Atlantis are attacked by the resurrected Black Lantern Aquaman who has retained his control over the creatures of the sea as seen in a bloody attack on the guards.

Blackest Night #2 feels a lot like it is the part of a movie where the team is being formed. The foundation has been laid out in issue one and now the Black Lantern corps is being built. While the biggest reveals happened in the first issue, these other players are obviously going to be key components to the story moving forward, especially since writer Geoff Johns took the time to give so much attention to their Black Lantern reveals. A perfect example of this is Deadman who already appears in Blackest Night: Batman (which will be reviewed on tomorrow’s edition of the Pull List). Along with that, the two major fight scenes are great glimpses of just how powerful the Black Lanterns can be.

One of the greatest parts of this issue aside from Johns’ story must go to the tremendous artwork of Ivan Reis. He has shown that he can take on any superhero, living or dead, that DC has to offer and put them on paper spectacularly. From the shining bits of home he can express in the eyes of characters like Barbara Gordon and the Atom to the disgusting take he has on Hawkman speaking in to the phone, he has nailed the feel of the book and story perfectly. He also hits big with a two page vertical spread with the reveal of the largest, and possibly most powerful, Black Lantern so far.

Thus far, Blackest Night has not disappointed. It has been a great set up for the story and despite spreading its focus to literally the entire DC Universe, has been able to keep a tight and concise theme running throughout. This expert creative team looks to only keep things running smoothly as the next six issues are on their way. This series is a must for super hero fans, not just DC fans. As long as they don’t come up with something absurd or convoluted as the story progresses, this looks to be the big hit that will solidify Green Lantern as DC’s #3 right behind mainstays Superman and Batman.

Other Pulls:

913614-1249945860_cvr_1__superUncanny X-Men #514 – Marvel – $3.99

Score: 6.0

Trying to take a smaller scale and less promoted route for the X-Men/Dark Avengers Utopia crossover has proven to be a less than exciting route for the story. Now in chapter four of six, the story itself is dragging. Instead of the excitement of seeing an X-Men team get to confront a Dark X-Men team or the Dark Avengers, the large ensemble cast splits the attention so much for the reader that it is very hard to get behind any aspect of the story. Simply put, too many stories are being put in to the pages of the book.

The issue starts off with Trask’s biosentinels being unleashed upon the streets of San Francisco. Cyclops gathers Dani Moonstar, Domino, one of the Stepford Cuckoos (who when drawn by Terry Dodson looks a lot like Dazzler and Illyana Rasputin who are also featured in the book) and Psylocke to start explaining his plan. Over in Osborn’s Alcatraz base, Daken and Hawkeye continue their rivalry, slicing in to each other before being broken up by Emma.

Emma then takes her team of Daken, Cloak, Dagger, Mimic, Weapon Omega and Namor to the streets to combat the biosentinels. It’s there that they find out that by becoming biosentinels, Trask has actually killed the men in the suits. Cyclops and his team head out to the location of the fight but instead of joining in, they watch. Much of the rest of the issue focuses on the battle and observation of the events and Cyclops’ explanation of how his team will defeat Emma’s before showing Wolverine’s return to the fray and what has been transpiring for the X-Club during the events of Utopia.

By this chapter of Utopia, the question about the story has become, “Who cares?” Promoted as a grand crossover between the Dark Avengers and the X-Men, it feels like a drop in the bucket for the overall X-Man story. Still coming off the disappointment of Messiah War, the X-world takes another hit as not much really happens here. Cyclops never gives any real insight on to how he feels about being betrayed by his lover who has seemingly sided with Norman Osborn and has returned to the unemotional and boring character he once was and had actually evolved from. Now, reading Cyclops in this book feels a lot like watching him in any of the X-Man movies again.

This hasn’t been one of the best examples of Matt Fraction’s storytelling either as he decides to drive one point across in such a blatant manner of actually having a character say it out loud instead of allowing readers to figure some things out for themselves. Even more confusing is why Fraction decided to put the fight between Hawkeye and Daken in the issue. It has already been a strong focus of the Dark Wolverine title and has been thoroughly explored already in Dark Avengers. Having it in here just took storytelling time away from the players who needed it most, like the two dozen X-Men appearing throughout the pages, and instead only furthers a childish rivalry that most readers probably don’t care about between the two former villains.

Opposing Blackest Night must be a rough time for any event book, aside from the well done conclusion to War of Kings. The X-Men/Dark Avengers Utopia suffers from event fatigue. Most X-readers have just come off of the Messiah War, which just came off of Manifest Destiny, which came off of the Messiah Complex, and so on. The X-Men need a break from events. For a few issues, the series had been running smoothly by allowing events to play out with smaller stories that helped build characters. Now, they just all feel crammed in under a few titles. This is likely why X-Factor has been so good lately (minus Secret Invasion) since it doesn’t have to concern itself with the rest of the X-World. While the action sequences are entertaining, they do little to advance the already underwhelming story behind the crossover. Hopefully the remaining two chapters can pull the crossover out of the mud but the way things are going, it doesn’t seem likely.

GI_Joe_Helix01-covA_mdG.I. Joe Special: Helix – I.D.W. – $3.99

Score: 7.5

It’s nice to get your hands on something G.I. Joe that doesn’t evoke anger upon picking it up after the events of the past week. G.I. Joe Special: Helix is a one-shot from I.D.W. that focuses on one of the shadier aspects of the G.I. Joe organization. Set in the same world as their current G.I. Joe continuity but not given a specific timeframe, Helix tells the story of one of Hawk’s special pet projects, a young girl named Helix who can seemingly master any style of combat after encountering it once as well as possessing savant level mathematical skills, able to calculate nearly anything in her head even in the heat of battle. Hawk explains to Duke that though Helix “doesn’t exist”, he needs Duke to retrieve her from the mission she has gone missing on. She has taken a position as a call girl in Japan (talk about a true American hero) in order to get close to a Cobra operative running low level trafficking there. Once he gets to Japan, Duke finds Helix and the reason she has been off the grid in order to complete his mission.

G.I. Joe Special: Helix is a great blend of character building and action mixed together in a one-shot story. Brian Reed builds in it a never before seen Joe and is able to get the reader to care about her within only 22 pages. Even knowing that since she “doesn’t exist”, we may not ever see Helix again, this book has a real shot of gaining the support much like G.I. Joe Origins did to keep her as a reoccurring character. Everything given about Helix is tragic from the way she is not officially treated like the rest of the Joe’s to the flashbacks about her past. It quickly becomes easy to sympathize with the outcast that she is.

Even more likeable about her is the fact that despite her current situation, she is still a happy and uplifting person makes it even easier to fall for the character. There is also a new dimension to Hawk shown in this series that hasn’t been present in much of I.D.W.’s work on the character, short of his backlash against Scarlet in G.I. Joe proper. Hawk seems more like a real general in this series than he has in any others. He admits that he is where he is because he doesn’t always make the nice decisions but he makes the right ones. Though you hate to see Hawk have to do and say some of what is contained in the issue, it is understandable why he is making the choices that he has.

Though not normally a fan of Joe Suitor’s anime inspired style, it works really well in this issue on Helix. The way her thought process is visually explained, it feels like watching a well put together cartoon rather than reading a simple comic. Though Duke winds up looking Japanese, the rest of the book looks fantastic with special emphasis on the action sequences. The “shakey cam” style used for a few of the more violent panels works great here as long as it isn’t used in excess.

After the debacle that is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, it’s still satisfying to pick up something G.I. Joe that is a fulfilling experience. It shows that even 25 years after the camp filled, blue laser and everyone misses cartoon series that the property can still be enjoyable and done right. It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t turn to I.D.W.’s creative teams for thoughts on the property instead of bastardizing it like they did. I.D.W., Larry Hama, Brian Reed and Christos Gage should all be commended for the great work they have done with the G.I. Joe property in sharp contrast to the drivel that is shoveled out to the masses from movie studios.

  • John Carle
    August 18, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I can see the comparison but I don’t view it the same as Marvel Zombies. Marvel Zombies had some shades of gray with morality where the new Zombies still had a shred of their humanity, even though they were compelled to do bad things by the hunger. The Black Lanterns don’t seem to have any of that humanity and are just evil beings.
    Plus, by the last issue of Marvel Zombies 4 the series had turned to hell. I hope that doesn’t happen to Blackest Night

  • Bedlam
    August 18, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I just have a comment on The Blackest Night. Its starting to feel a lot like Marvel Zombies. Is DC copying or do they feel they can do the story better? BTW the artwork in Blackest Night is some of the best i’ve seen in recent years.

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