The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Blackest Night’, ‘Powers’, ‘Archie’ & More!

Welcome to another edition of The Pull List Comic Reviews! This week, the Blackest Night event takes center stage, Bendis and Oeming make a triumphant comeback and Archie gets married (again). As always, WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

PULL OF THE WEEK:

blackest-night-5-coverBlackest Night #5 [of 8]
DC Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Score: 9.0

The mastermind behind the dead rising stands revealed as the Blackest Night prophecy inches towards becoming true, but will the unified heroes of the world have enough to stop it? Not if a late dinner guest bearing gifts has anything to say about it.

Geoff Johns welcomes you all to hell. How could he not? In the thirty plus years that I’ve been reading comics, I can’t remember a time when things looked so grim in a story thanks to this issue. The big guns of the Justice League arrive in time to assist the Flashes – Barry Allen and Wally West – in confronting Nekron as the Black Lanterns’ power battery reaches full charge. Fast forward to the end of the issue and only two heroes remain standing while the rest are chomping at the bit, dying to feast on some good, old fashioned heart muscle. And this is only the fifth issue in an eight-issue series?!? Wow.

Johns, along with artist Ivan Reis, are obviously toying with us and giggling madly along the way. The re-emergence of “Bruce Wayne” – his name was in quotations in the issue as well – signaled that the next phase was about to begin, but what he did to heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, etc I don’t think anyone saw coming, characters and readers alike. The sixth issue cannot get here fast enough, if you ask me.

The art is simply outstanding. Reis has been making a name for himself for years, but this series is his way of announcing that he’s arrived; the fact that he’s been pretty much on schedule so far when other artists involved in an event of this magnitude typically fail is all you really need to know. Besides, one look at that glorious double-page spread featuring you-know-who and I was ready to proclaim him “Artist of the Year.” Between Johns, Reis and the major implications of this issue, the Pull of the Week couldn’t have gone to anything else.

OTHER PULLS:

archie-603-coverArchie #603
Archie Comics – $2.50 US
Writer: Michael Uslan
Artist: Stan Goldberg
Score: 7.5

Archie and the rest of the Riverdale gang have graduated from high school, leading to everyone’s favorite redhead making the ultimate choice: Betty or Veronica? Choosing Ronnie, Archie begins life as an adult, getting married and having twins while the Andrews and Lodges celebrate. Life’s pretty good, but now Archie’s off for another walk… and finds another fork in the road…

Consider the other shoe dropped. In this fourth chapter of the six-part story, writer Uslan shows us readers what the other side of the coin looks like by having Archie choose Betty instead. Paying attention to the characters themselves, Uslan does a great job in portraying certain reactions to the Archie/Betty news as each character reacts exactly how I expected them to. Veronica’s spoiled brat routine makes perfect sense, but she comes around eventually as well. And I may be the only one who thought that Reggie got what he deserved.

Artist Stan Goldberg provides the same Archie look that he’s been doing for years, and is arguably one of the more consistent artists in comics today. Thankfully they didn’t go with the “new look” characters that debuted a few years ago and instead went with the look I still remember fondly from decades ago. While not in any continuity, this is one story that shouldn’t be passed up.

creepy-2-coverCreepy #2
Dark Horse Comics – $4.99 US
Writers: Dan Braun, Mike Baron, Joe R Lansdale, Joe Harris, Dave Sims
Artists: Greg Ruth, Nathan Fox, Rahsan Ekedal, Jason Shawn Alexander, Angelo Torres, Russ Heath
Score: 8.0

What do you get when you cross a social experiment gone wrong, a car that runs on meat, an excruciatingly long death and a curse that manipulates reality? Horror and terror done right, that’s what.

The latest anthology from Dark Horse Comics, Creepy, fails to disappoint if you’re a fan of the classic 70’s horror comics like I am. With five stories, this latest offering sure packs a punch. Creators contributing to this project shined in their own right, but I have to single out the “Muscle Car” story by Mike Baron and Nathan Fox. Fox’s dirty art style took Baron’s unique tale and amped it up, leaving us with one of the creepier last images I’ve seen in awhile.

IDW Publishing had tried the same format a couple of years ago with Doomed, but unfortunately that series only made it to the fourth issue. I’ve got high hopes that this title will last much longer, especially if Dark Horse continues to put out fantastic work such as this. I’m sure the first issue is relatively easy to find, so do yourself a favor and check these out.

green-lantern-48-coverGreen Lantern #48
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Score: 7.5

While in search of the Black Lantern battery, the rag-tag team of Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Saint Walker, Indigo-1 and Carol Fenris stumble upon Atrocitus and Larfleeze, make a pact and head for Sector 666, where they find absolutely nothing. All’s not lost, however, as an interesting connection has been discovered between the mysterious Indigo Lanterns and former Green Lantern Abin Sur.

Using this issue to set things up for the fifth installment of Blackest Night, Johns takes just the right amount of time to focus on the clashing Lanterns, and how they must come together if they have any hope of ensuring that the Blackest Night prophecy doesn’t come true. I especially enjoyed how Sinestro was portrayed; his utter contempt for all things green enables him to speak openly of destroying them, even as they decide to work together in the face of disaster. Great stuff.

Artist Doug Mahnke continues to make this title a must-read, regardless of event tie-ins or not. Capturing the pain Atrocitus feels was an amazing scene, and even the obligatory “we’ll pose to show we mean business” shot at the end was twisted into a new, fresh way while utilizing the various Lantern’s batteries. Again, great stuff.

image-united-1-coverImage United #1 [of 6]
Image Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artists: Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino
Score: 7.5

A new evil threatens to destroy the Image universe, but who is this evil, and how can the heroes prevent it? Only Fortress knows of what’s to come, but he doesn’t know all the details, so convincing the rest of the heroes to join him is proving to be very difficult.

Admittedly, I thought the creators involved with this mega-project went a little insane thinking they’d be able to pull this off. After all, I’m still waiting for the second issue of Darker Image – aren’t we all? – so I naturally don’t expect this series to finish without a few hiccups along the way. So far, however, it’s going swimmingly!

Writer Robert Kirkman does a good job of letting the first issue showcase the various properties included, allowing for each respective artist to get their time in the spotlight. At first I felt a little distracted by the different art styles presented throughout, but I don’t think that can be avoided at all, so it’s not a complete hang-up. While the story does need to pick up the speed a touch in the next installment, I believe this issue is the perfect jump-on point if you’re new to any of these characters.

invincible-iron-man-20-coverInvincible Iron Man #20
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Score: 8.5

Tony Stark is now in a vegetative state after wiping his mind of all his knowledge so Norman Osborn can’t get access. Being the futurist he’s always been, Tony leaves his close friends a message, complete with instructions on how to “reboot” him. Meanwhile, Madame Masque enlists the Thunderbolt’s Ghost to kill Tony Stark, against Osborn’s wishes.

Writer Matt Fraction has completely stripped the title character of everything he has, and has now set sights on bringing Stark back to the forefront in this opening chapter of the latest arc. For anyone who has read “World’s Most Wanted,” you already know that Stark is in good hands, and this issue is no different. The inevitable Avengers reunion starts here so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Artist Salvador Larocca does a solid job in this issue, even though the vast majority of it centers on the cast of characters and their struggles to deal with the topic of the day, being Stark himself. I realize there’s a movement out there that isn’t happy with how Larocca portrays faces in his art, but frankly I don’t see a single thing wrong with it. Instead, I see nothing but varying degrees of inner turmoil throughout, and that’s just fine with me.

justice-league-of-america-39-coverJustice League of America #39
DC Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Mark Bagley
Score: 7.0

In this Blackest Night tie-in, members of the current Justice League roster converge on the Hall of Justice, but they’re too late as the bodies of the villains they’ve kept over the years in the Hall’s morgue rise, looking to get to the heart of the matter. With the Motor City chapter of the Justice League on the scene, what could possibly go wrong?

James Robinson continues to bring the horror and suspense here, but it goes down a notch or two from his recently completed Blackest Night: Superman mini-series. It may be the characters involved that I’m not particularly fond of, but I had trouble with certain characterizations, especially the way Red Tornado spoke. Still, bringing back the evil Dr. Light was a sure-fire way to get me to read the next issue, and the face-off between Zatanna and her father was fantastic.

Mark Bagley, however, made a huge leap in my eyes with this issue. I would never have thought that he’d be able to mix his style with the visual horrors a story like this needs, but I couldn’t be happier to be wrong. The scene where Kimiyo, the current Dr. Light, stumbles upon the evil Dr. Light was a nice touch, very reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project. All in all, this issue was pretty good even if it wasn’t essential reading.

ms-marvel-47-coverMs. Marvel #47
Marvel Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Mike McKone, Rob DiSalvo, Derec Donovan
Score: 6.5

Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man team-up to stop a D-list villain – overkill much? – and then head out on one of the most awkward dates ever depicted. Seriously.

Oh, Brian Reed. I was pretty excited to see what this done-in-one story had to offer, and I came away from it wishing I hadn’t read it. The message I took away from this was that all Ms. Marvel and Spidey have in common is punching villains and eating junk food. While attempts to build the relationship between these two were forced, it all fell by the wayside, as everything felt very wooden.

Not helping matters was the art in this issue. When you have a standard comic issue – not over-sized – and three separate artists are involved? It makes for some frustrating reading as the changes in styles ripped me from what I was reading. I can’t see how this issue can be described as anything other than “filler.” Bypass this one and get on board for the next issue featuring Mystique.

powers-1-coverPowers #1
Marvel Comics/Icon – $3.95 US
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Avon Oeming
Score: 8.0

Agent Christian Walker and his new partner Enki Sunrise are trying to get used to each other in this third volume of the series. Sunrise just wants to be taken seriously, but Walker’s got other things on his mind, including his returned powers…

Series co-creator Brian Michael Bendis picks up where the second volume left off, bringing us readers up to speed while launching into the next case for the two homicide detectives. His trademark grasp of dialogue is front and center, and the little seeds he’s planting for the future of these characters are spread throughout the entire issue. In other words, it’s what we’ve come to expect from the superstar writer.

Co-creator Mike Avon Oeming also brings his stylized art to the table, culminating in fresh page layouts and wonderful character moments. I especially loved the scenes where Sunrise was chasing a crook down, who happened to look a lot like writer Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, showing us that you don’t need special powers to be effective. Great start to this new volume!

teen-titans-77-coverTeen Titans #77
DC Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: JT Krul
Artist: Joe Bennett
Score: 7.5

Wintergreen, Deathstroke’s one-time assistant, has risen from the grave in search of his former employer in this Blackest Night tie-in. Too bad for him as Ravager – Deathstroke’s daughter, Rose – is also looking for a little father/daughter time.

Sure, we’ve all seen the dysfunction the Wilson family operates in before, but this time around writer JT Krul ups the ante, and he does a great job of it. Seemingly every member of the Wilson family appears in this issue, and it’s a reunion Deathstroke wants no part of. Bonus points for how Deathstroke is seen in the eyes of a Black Lantern: nothing but green, baby.

Artist Joe Bennett did some pretty good work here as well, especially considering how much action takes place whenever more than one Wilson shows up. He did a wonderful job juggling said action scenes with the macabre visuals that accompany a story like this. Here’s hoping he continues that trend in the second issue of this arc.

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