The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Sugarshock’, ‘Invincible Iron Man’, ‘Power Girl’ and More

Welcome to The Pull List Comic Reviews! It was a great week for comics as every issue got a really good score, including a surprising (for me, anyway) Pull of the Week. As always, WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

PULL OF THE WEEK:

ss1Sugarshock – Dark Horse Comics – $3.50 US
Writer: Joss Whedon Artist: Fábio Moon
Score: 9.5

Being the lead singer and guitarist of a band can require quite the juggling act, but what if one of those tasks involved saving the Earth? Luckily for us Earthlings, Dandelion has it all under control… somewhat. You see, her band, Sugarshock, has been requested in a battle of the bands, except there are no bands, and they’ll be battling to the death with the planet’s future on the line. Will they save the day or fall between the cracks into obscurity, or worse?

This isn’t your ordinary band, however. The drummer goes by Wade, who also happens to be an alien princess who looks human and can’t say “no” to groupies. Her “mystically enhanced bodyguard,” L’lihdra, doubles as the band’s other guitarist and the bassist is Robot Phil, which pretty much says it all. If there ever was a more rag-tag team of misfits, I’ve yet to see it.

I don’t know where to even begin with this issue. Originally appearing on MySpace’s Dark Horse Presents anthology in 2007, the three-part story is collected here along with Fábio Moon’s sketchbook and Editor Scott Allie’s notations, making for a nice, complete package. In other words, this is as close to perfect as I’ve seen since I started writing the Pull List Comic Reviews. Joss Whedon, who has always had a firm grip on female leads, inflects his usual witty banter but ups it to a whole new level. His characters are, in some cases, out of this world, and you can’t help but fall in love with every single one of them.

Moon’s art and designs are the yin to Whedon’s yang. Easily switching from homegrown locales to gladiator-like arenas in outer space, his style remained true throughout the issue, allowing the focus to remain squarely on Sugarshock and their world-saving exploits. Even if you’ve read this story online, don’t pass this up. It’s too fresh and far too good to not be in your collection.

OTHER PULLS:

Azrael #1 – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Fabian Nicieza Artist: Ramon Bachs
Score: 8.0

There’s a new Azrael in town, and he’s not happy. Not that any of the previous Azraels were ever happy to begin with. Still, now that Michael Lane possesses the Suit of Sorrows, he can mete out his own brand of justice and do more than he ever could when he was on the police force. Unfortunately for him, it looks like he’s running on borrowed time…

Loved the pacing in this debut issue from Fabian Nicieza. Despite having religious connotations, this issue did a great job in not getting caught up in the usual traps that tend to follow religious-themed characters. The twist at the end will undoubtedly be the driving force as this series chugs along, so it’ll be interesting to see if Nicieza – and future writers if need be – can keep the ship righted towards that goal.

Artist Ramon Bachs incorporates a different style here compared to his work on Red Robin. Admittedly, I didn’t like it at first. It felt like some of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics were taken, colored and printed up. By the end of the issue I was a believer, though; it’s not a style you’d expect with a character like this, but it works. When Azrael’s adventures warrant more action in these pages, I’m curious to see if we’ll get the same electricity that we got when Red Robin got his ass-kick on.

bns3Blackest Night: Superman #3 (of 3) – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: James Robinson Artists: Eddy Barrows, Allan Goldman
Score: 8.5

Welcome to Smallville, home of Superman, meteor freaks and hell. The townspeople have let their emotions get the better of them, thanks to the Black Lantern Psycho Pirate, while the Kents – Clark, Conner and Ma – are trying to put some returning old friends back into the ground. Meanwhile, on New Krypton, Supergirl has her own daddy issues to deal with, which leads to an incarceration on a planetary scale.

Take a bow, James Robinson… this issue – and series – played out in a way that any fan of horror would grin from ear to ear, including myself. While all of the Blackest Night tie-ins have been much better than event tie-ins tend to be, this one has that horror vibe cranked to 11, making for a good time if you keep your lights on. Every character gets their time to shine, including Krypto, which made me literally cheer out “Yeah!”

I’m a big fan of Eddy Barrows’ art since his Teen Titans days, and here his art has never been better. His layouts, especially, are top notch as he mixes little panels with giant spreads that equate to fantastic visuals. My only gripe with this issue is Allan Goldman’s fill-in portion. No offense to Goldman as he’s definitely an adept penciller, but when 90% of the series is Barrows and then changes, it snatches you right out of the story. Had Barrows been able to finish the rest of this issue, it would have gotten a higher score.

Dark Avengers #10 – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Mike Deodato
Score: 8.5

With a population of only 319, Dinosaur, Colorado seems like a nice, quiet community where nothing major ever happens. Lately visitors have been disappearing, and Norman Osborn wants to know why. Sending the Sentry ahead to scope things out, Normie’s hunches are all but validated when his advanced scout vanishes as well, but not nearly as much as when he himself finds out who the string-puller is…

This issue read like a Brian Michael Bendis highlight reel. All of the writer’s strengths are on display as zingers fly in every direction, a hook-up of evil proportions occurs and a cliffhanger showing us that Normie is in way over his head are just some of the scenes you’ll find here. In fact, it’s relentless as Bendis continues to make this team of villains about as fun a read as there is.

He’s one of the more polarizing artists in comics today, so when new Mike Deodato art hits the stands, most readers either love his work or hate it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but he had me at Man-Thing. I also really enjoyed that double-page spread at the end where the Avengers leader is clearly not in Kansas anymore. All in all a really great issue that could have been a Pull of the Week had it been released on a different week.

Invincible #67 – Image Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Robert Kirkman Artist: Cory Walker
Score: 7.5

Nolan, with help from Allen the Alien, continues to prepare for the upcoming war against the Viltrumites, but what will break him first: the doomsday weapon he’s uncovered, or shacking up with Allen and his insatiable girlfriend?

Leave it to Robert Kirkman to bring a deadly weapon onto the battle field, only to soften the blow with the hilarious scenes involving Nolan attempting to sleep while at Allen’s place. It’s also no wonder that Allen the Alien has become such a popular character in the Invincible stable. With characters like these, did anyone even notice that the title character hasn’t appeared in the last two issues? Exactly.

Series co-creator Cory Walker continues his return to these pages, and it doesn’t look like he’s skipped a beat. He, too, has a knack for infusing humor into his work, when it’s necessary, and the finished product is all the more better as a result. I’m not sure if he plans to stick around for future installments, but it’s good to see him back, even if it winds up being for a limited engagement.

iim19Invincible Iron Man #19 – Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Salvador Larroca
Score: 9.0

The epic storyline “World’s Most Wanted” comes to a close as Tony Stark puts his endgame into play against Norman Osborn. Utilizing what little ammunition he has left at his disposal, Tony gambles with everything he holds dear, but will it be enough, and more importantly, will he survive?

Apparently winning an Eisner wasn’t good enough for Matt Fraction, if this ending/lead-in to the next arc is any indication. Allow me to get this out of the way: are you freaking kidding me?!? *ahem* Fraction does an incredible job tying up every plot thread while thrusting the cast into the next chapter, and I can’t wait for it to begin, especially considering that final page. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s about time.

Salvador Larroca has been nothing short of stellar in this series, so naturally I’d feel the same way about this issue. Much like Deodato, Larroca also has his fair share of detractors, but I can’t fathom why. His art comes across as more cinematic than anything else, which combined with Fraction’s big ideas means it’s a perfect fit. And again, what a last page! If you haven’t been reading this, get the trade and get on board for the next chapter, “Stark: Disassembled.”

Justice League of America #38 – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: James Robinson Artist: Mark Bagley
Score: 7.0

Vixen calls a meeting to figure out if there should even be a Justice League anymore. Feeling down about the what transpired in Justice League: Cry For Justice, she attempts to find a new reason to continue on, but along with Red Tornado, Dr. Light and Plastic Man, she finds out she has no choice as Despero shows up to ruin the party.

A lot has been made about James Robinson and his taking over of the Justice League franchise. In this debut issue from him – he’s also the scribe on the aforementioned Cry For Justice mini-series – it’s still tough to tell if he can do what quite a few writers have been unable to do, and that’s to make this series relevant again. One issue in, however, is not enough to say whether or not he succeeded, but it definitely shows promise.

Finally, it looks like Mark Bagley is finding his non-Spidey legs. I loved his work on Ultimate Spider-Man, but once the prolific artist got onto Trinity I couldn’t get used to it at all, and kept waiting for the Webhead to swing into a scene. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but he’s starting to change his style ever so slightly and it shows. If he keeps this up, and Robinson continues on that promise, then this title just might become a cornerstone of the DC Universe once again.

Mighty Avengers #30 – Marvel Comics – $2.99 US
Writers: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage Artist: Sean Chen
Score: 7.0

Talk about pressure. What do you do when the universe itself tells you that you’re more important than virtually anyone else… anywhere? Henry Pym won’t have time to think about that, however, as the Unspoken’s plans result in the formation of a mix-and-match team of various Avengers to try and save the world.

It’s hard to do better than a Dan Slott/Christos N. Gage team-up, but that doesn’t automatically call for accolades, either. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good issue, but it’s the lead-in issue to the grand finale of this current story arc, meaning you’ll have to wait for one more month. Having said that, as long as either of these two writers are involved, we’re in good hands.

Speaking of hands, Sean Chen’s are quite full as there are almost as many Avengers in this issue as there was in Secret Invasion. A mixture of Mighty Avengers, Young Avengers and New Avengers grace these pages, and Chen does a good job in handling each and every one of them. His action scenes in particular are bombastic enough to handle the inevitable smackdown in the next issue.

PGL Cv6 dsPower Girl #6 – DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writers: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti Artist: Amanda Conner
Score: 8.0

Power Girl tracks down the terrible trio from another world and their pursuer while simultaneously running a company, boosting her research and development projects AND helping Terra to get better acquainted with how things work on the surface. But Pee Gee’s getting stalked, which doesn’t sit well with her at all…

The writing duo of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti show no signs of slowing down in this series. Even though this is the conclusion of the second arc, they’ve managed to keep ongoing plot threads alive throughout, which sadly some other creators fail at. Throw in tons of action and humor, and you have a title that I guarantee you’ll look forward to each month.

Amanda Conner is a star, and you’d better get used to it, because she’s (hopefully) not going anywhere any time soon. With a more cartoonish style, she still manages to bring the heavy action that a title like this needs, while mixing a lot of humor and sexiness that all adds up to a unique experience. Really, fantastic work on her part that’s every bit as enjoyable as any other artist out there.

Star Trek: Nero #3 (of 4) – IDW Publishing – $3.99 US
Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Mike Johnson, Tim Jones Artist: David Messina
Score: 7.5

In this fill-in mini-series that chronicles Nero’s search for Spock – the bridge between IDW’s Star Trek: Countdown mini-series and the Star Trek motion picture reboot – we’ve been treated to what makes the villain tick, which could easily be interpreted as a ticking time bomb. How he ultimately finds Spock, however, will make any Trekkie giggle with glee.

The writing team of Orci and Kurtzman (plot) and Johnson and Jones (story) are doing a wonderful job on this series. So much so that I wish the film had incorporated more of Nero’s back-story than what eventually winded up on the big screen. The tie-in/homage to the original Star Trek motion picture was a big plus for me, which I won’t reveal here, but as mentioned, it’s a really cool tie-in.

Artist David Messina is a diamond in the rough. Having already done numerous Star Trek and Angel projects for IDW, his talents have gotten to the point that it won’t be long before he lands at either Marvel or DC. When that happens, don’t say I didn’t warn you; this guy’s got the goods.

  • Javier Hodos
    April 19, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Cheers! I didn’t know that before!

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