Books  |  Reviews

Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (10/10/12)

October 10, 2012  |  9:00am

Each week, Paste reviews the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.

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Uncanny Avengers #1 #1
by Rick Remender and John Cassday

Marvel Comics, 2012
Rating: 6.6

I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of Avengers vs. X-men’s narrative short cuts and cheap sacrifices, but Marvel’s NOW! campaign has built some interesting momentum, if its only trick thus far is playing musical chairs with creative teams and titles. Uncanny Avengers plays conductor to the Reconstruction of the Marvel Universe, coming out one week after its two biggest teams slapped each other around volcanoes and then kissed and made up. The crux of this title is that the spandex world police known as the Avengers have finally felt bad enough for the X-Men to invite them to their ivory towers, like an absentee father who plays catch with his son after he tries to drown the family dog. There’s a solid foundation for a soaring flagship title here, circumventing the typical bleak hero angst by emphasizing unity and innovation. Writer Rick Remender was the right scribe for this project, with a sterling track record of distilling core concepts and characters and finding intriguing, organic ways for them to interact (check out his Apocalypse thread in Uncanny X-Force). In this first chapter, the big bad is revealed to be grotesque ultra-Nazi Red Skull, whose new campaign is to eradicate the mutant race. It’s such a shockingly simple notion that makes head-slapping sense. Of course a super-powered Nazi would want to cleanse all super-powered genetic freaks from the collective gene pool. Remender’s creative radar was practically made for comic properties that can only endure so much change before fan boys show up with digital pitchforks (Frankencastle pushed it, though). Even with its author’s solid intuition, there’s still more than a few inconsistencies over the book’s direction, like why would Captain America ask Havok, a space-faring Abercrombie model who shoots concentric circles, to lead a team he stars in? I’m calling puppet politics. Reserves aside, this could well be a fun, twisting blockbuster whose homogenous surface masks loads of potential and conflict. (SE)

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Point of Impact #1
by Jay Faerber and Koray Kuranel

Image Comics, 2012
Rating: 8.0

Point of Impact gets straight to the point: The initial crime at the center of Jay Faerber’s new miniseries happens on the second page, and is actually spoiled on the cover. A beautiful newlywed takes a Brodie onto the hood of a parked car, kicking off a mystery that embroils her lover, her husband, her yoga classmate and at least two different men with USMC tattoos. A bad set-up will sink a mystery from the start (see a few of the weaker entries in the Vertigo Crime series) but Faerber unspools enough compelling threads to keep me interested. He’s working with stock noir themes—weary detectives, ex-military bruisers, secret double lives, a MacBook that’s also a potential MacGuffin—but the brisk pace and economical character development keeps the seams from showing. This first issue doesn’t pack the gut-punch of Criminal and doesn’t have an instantly transfixing lead like Stumptown, but succinct and professional craftsmanship is always a commendable virtue. And besides, Koray Kuranel can draw a hell of a fistfight. (GM)

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Once Upon a Time Machine
by various artists, edited by Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens

Dark Horse Comics, 2012
Rating: 6.6

The concept here (fairy tales and nursery rhymes interpreted through a futuristic lens) is a smart one and timely, too, in a pop culture era that seems to be newly enamored of archetype-based narrative. Many of the artists’ names aren’t that familiar, although Farel Dalrymple contributes the cover and Jill Thompson does some work, which should enable you to judge their entries impartially. Some are good. Some are not. There is considerable breadth here, as shouldn’t be surprising in a 400-plus-page anthology featuring about 80 artists. Rather than comprehensiveness (there are stories here with which you are undoubtedly not familiar, as well as many you know and a lot of single-page, non-narrative-based interpretations), the editors should perhaps have aimed for greater selectiveness. There are highlights here, no question, and the age level falls somewhere between Fables and First Second’s Nursery Rhyme Comics, but the project as a whole is sort of an unfulfilling mish-mash. (HB)

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Dark Matter Volume 1: Rebirth
by Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie and Garry Brown

Dark Horse Comics, 2012
Rating: 7.0

At first Dark Matter feels like six stock characters struggling for meaning in the void of space. The Gruff Badass, the Stoic Soldier, the Kid Who’s Smarter Than the Adults, The Guy Who Bought a Sword And Now Thinks He’s a Ninja, and two others wake up with no memory on a spaceship full of guns and an ornery robot. They try to figure out who they are and what their mission could be while immediately defaulting to what may or may not be their true personalities. Are they good guys? If not, can they become good guys? Do they even want to be good guys? This well-paced series doles out crucial game-changing information at the end of every issue, playing confidently with genre tropes and displaying a solid understanding of the comic book form. It’s hard to get wrapped up in characters that are all mysteries, though, and although they might rediscover parts of their true selves when instinct kicks in we still never grow to care about them or their plight. At least we can appreciate the economy of craft. (GM)

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