The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘Avengers: The Initiative,’ ‘Who Will Wield The Shield?,’ ‘Teen Titans’ and More!

Welcome to another edition of The Pull List Comic Reviews! Since the hectic holiday schedule and copious amounts of eggnog have affected my time and brain cells, respectively, this week’s reviews are more of the quickie variety. While short and sweet – well, as short and sweet as I’m going to get – there’s enough yuletide cheer to make even Gotham warm over. As always, WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

PULL OF THE WEEK:

avengers-initiative-31-coverAvengers: The Initiative #31
Marvel Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Christos N Gage
Artist: Rafa Sandoval
Score: 8.5/10

The music’s pumping, the booze is flowing and the girls are dancing. Seems like Taskmaster’s right where he wants to be, until Norman Osborn decides to come to Camp H.A.M.M.E.R. for an inspection. Nobody said pimpin’ was easy, especially since Taskmaster has to get his place running on all cylinders before the boss arrives, bearing “gifts.”

Incredibly solid issue by writer Gage. Throughout the entire string of storylines, like “Civil War,” “Secret Invasion” and “Dark Reign,” select characters from both sides of the fight have begun to question whether or not they’re on the right side. Makes for some good reading and interesting dynamics as “Siege” starts to pick up steam. Artist Sandoval continues to be consistently good, especially where Taskmaster is included in the scene.

OTHER PULLS:

arkham-reborn-3-coverArkham Reborn #3 (of 3)
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: David Hine
Artist: Jeremy Haun
Score: 7.5/10

One week after opening the doors, Arkham Asylum has been taken over by the inmates. Batman does wind up saving the day, but was the mastermind behind the riot Black Mask, Alyce Sinner, or someone else entirely?

Creative team Hine and Haun have succeeded in bringing a new level of terror to the old asylum as this mini-series comes to a close. While no longer relying on creepy visuals, the duo instead focus on the denizens of the asylum – both inmates and staff – and let the horrors that sometimes accompany people to shine through. Really enjoyed Clayface’s look in this series, even if it was for a little while. And note that the cover released is not the cover that was previewed; so keep an eye out for that.

blackest-night-jsa-1-coverBlackest Night: JSA #1 (of 3)
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Eddy Barrows, Marcos Marz
Score: 7.5/10

By now you know the drill: loved ones are returning from the grave with fancy black rings and a craving for heart. Now, however, is when some of the bigger baddies start arriving, including some familiar faces like Wesley Dodds, Charles McNider and Terry Sloane. This is definitely not a cause for celebration.

Nice work by the creative team in this first issue of the latest mini-series to tie into “Blackest Night.” Granted, we’ve seen this (for lack of a better term) formula before in the other tie-ins, but there are some specific scenes that stand out. Power Girl’s rage and determination, Mr. Terrific’s realization of what he’s dealing with, and Damage staying true to his namesake all stood out as memorable moments for this reader.

captain-america-who-will-wield-the-shield-coverCaptain America: Who Will Wield The Shield? one-shot
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Butch Guice, Luke Ross
Score: 7/10

In this “stunning aftermath of Captain America: Reborn” (not gonna say it), Steve and Bucky have a little heart-to-heart after they spend some time trying to decide if they want to continue being Captain America. Sharon, Natasha and Luke all weigh in with their opinion, but Steve’s meeting with the President might be the biggest game-changer.

In a nutshell, you know what’s happening in this issue (not gonna say it). It’s the kind of work you’d expect from the talents of Brubaker, Guice and Ross. Be forewarned, though: you know that “little” problem that Marvel had in releasing certain issues, as of late (not gonna say it)? Well, they kind of did it again with this one (not gonna say it). Here’s my advice: buy this issue, but don’t read it until Captain America: Reborn #6 gets released.

fantastic-four-574-coverFantastic Four #574
Marvel Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Neil Edwards
Score: 7/10

It’s Franklin Richards’ birthday, and the festivities are about to begin. With guests like Power Pack and Spider-Man, how can anything go wrong? Don’t worry, that’s not a tease as Franklin has a nice party with his family and friends. After the party is another thing entirely, though.

Interesting set-up issue by writer Hickman as both Franklin and Valeria go in new directions thanks to a visit from someone from the future. Still wondering why Johnny Storm hates Spider-Man so much since their little arc in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man made it looked like things were fine between them. Edwards continues to fill in for Dale Eaglesham on art duties, and holds his own. Really enjoyed the part with mutants Artie and Leech and the gifts they received.

gotham-city-sirens-7-coverGotham City Sirens #7
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: David Lopez
Score: 6.5/10

Just like everyone else, the girls have to deal with the holidays, which can prove to be more difficult than dealing with your run-of-the-mill villain. True to form, one of the best things about the holiday season is that there’s no place like home.

Not a very inspiring issue, unfortunately. Chalk it up to regular series artist Guillem March skipping this issue and the type of holiday tale we’ve seen time and time again. Having said that, there’s still some memorable moments in this issue, like Selina and Dick’s conversation about family and loss, and the laugh-out-loud scene involving Damien (which I’m still laughing about). According to the advanced solicitations, Dini and March get back to business with the next issue so look forward to that.

new-avengers-60-coverNew Avengers #60
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Score: 7.5/10

With Luke Cage back in the midst, seemingly safe and sound, the heroes discover that all is not well with their fellow teammate. Using radical surgery that’s half science and half magic, the heroes manage to thwart the danger while leaving Norman Osborn a nice gift. Hey, it is Christmas, after all.

Consider this just another fun romp that has become the standard from the team of Bendis and Immonen. While directing the ship towards “Siege,” Bendis manages to include some changes – both potential and literal – that we get to see play out in the coming months. Will Luke Cage still be an Avenger once the dust settles? Will the Hood’s goons realize their mistake now that they’re working directly for Norman Osborn? The answers are coming sooner than you think.

teen-titans-78-coverTeen Titans #78
DC Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: JT Krul
Artist: Joe Bennett
Score: 8/10

At the Wilson family reunion, the last thing on anyone’s mind is what they’re getting from “Secret Santa.” The dead compatriots of the Wilson clan have come back to enact revenge, so if the Wilsons can stop trying to kill each other for a moment, they might be able to survive. The Cosbys have nothing on these guys.

Have to say it: JT Krul is quickly becoming one of my favorite up-and-comers in the comics industry. I don’t want to forget about Joe Bennett’s art as I’m becoming a fan of his work as well, but Krul somehow manages to hit every note for me. Loved how this came about (see the previous issue), loved how they managed to escape (it was the last Wilson you’d expect) and loved how a lot of issues were brought out into the open, culminating in a new direction for all three Wilsons, which I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

xmen-forever-14-coverX-Men Forever #14
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Tom Grummett
Score: 7.5/10

Gambit, Kitty and lil’ Ororo help Colossus – along with this girlfriend, the Black Widow – in saving his sister Illyana, who has now become Magik. Meanwhile, Beast and Jean see a show and get more than they bargained for, and Kurt gets a call from a frantic Amanda. Sounds crazy? Read on…

Writer Claremont is, simply put, a genius for what he’s doing to the mutants in this series that picks up the plot threads circa 1992. With nothing to handcuff him, Claremont has gone all out in this run, leaving a trail of dead mutants, severe shifts in the status quo and readers’ jaws dropped everywhere. Even better is the fact that they issues have that nostalgic feel to them, so at times I feel like I’m a kid again while reading these issues. Do not miss out on this series if you’re a fan of that X-Men era.

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