Review: Magneto #1

Ongoing books from a villain’s point-of-view are notoriously tricky propositions, but Cullen Bunn is off to a solid – if rougher than I’d like – start in Magneto #1.  Check out the read/RANT review today!

Magneto #1 cover

Cover by Paolo Rivera

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Review: Harley Quinn #0

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner team up with, uh, basically every major artist still speaking to DC for a blessedly playful introduction to their upcoming Harley Quinn series.

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Harley Quinn was more damaged than perhaps any other character in the DC Universe (give or take a Jaime Reyes) by the DC Universe ‘soft reboot’ in the New 52.  While Harley’s always had a dark, seductive edge, the New 52 stripped her of all her subtlety and most of her clothes, turning her into a vaguely ridiculous facsimile of one of DC’s most iconic female characters.  Bits and pieces of the old Harley have resurfaced periodically, but by and large, Harley went from the Clown Princess of Crime to another bland merry murderess in a corset and boy shorts.  It was an abysmal redesign.  Now, however, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner are taking over and steering Harley Quinn back towards being her own thing, a process that starts in the cluttered-but-playful Harley Quinn #0.    Continue reading

Review: Gail Simone’s The Movement and the Importance of Point of View

Where Did Gail Simones The Movement Go Wrong

The Movement is a book I badly wanted to love.  One of the few truly new ideas to emerge from the New 52, it had pretty much everything I look for in a monthly comic, at least on the surface.  It had a fantastic premise – superpowered teens fight corruption and wage class warfare – that was extraordinarily relevant to modern society, a diverse cast filled with mostly new characters, and a dedication to building a strong sense of place in Coral City.  But The Movement has failed to connect with readers (myself included) in a way that’s rare for writer Gail Simone’s work.  Where did it go so wrong?  Continue reading

Review – Iron Man: Believe

Iron Man: Believe is a breezy, confident relaunch for the Armored Avenger, and while it lacks the depth of some of Kieron Gillen’s best work, its casual inventiveness should charm and thrill a lot of readers.

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In a lot of ways, Iron Man was kind of a B-lister even 10 years ago. Sure, he was on the Avengers regularly, but at that point, basically everyone was on the Avengers. Until the mid-2000s, the only major storyline he really had outside of the Avengers franchise was Demon in a Bottle, a melodramatic but largely excellent story that defined the character for years to come. The dual success of his movie – particularly Robert Downey Jr.’s incredibly charismatic performance as Tony – and Civil War, a story that put him at odds with Captain America and gave him a lot of intensely emotional material, has made him one of Marvel’s most marketable heroes.

His status as an A-list hero is fitting given the vast changes to the role technology places in our everyday lives, and Matt Fraction’s largely excellent run from 2008-2012 helped cement his status as a modern pop icon. British writer Kieron Gillen, fresh off of reinventing Loki and pushing the X-Men into war with the Avengers, was an interesting choice to relaunch the character for the Marvel Now initiative, and Iron Man: Believe is the first volume of Tony’s relaunched adventures. So, how does Gillen fare?

Written by Gillen and penciled by Greg Land, Iron Man: Believe is probably one of the least dramatic re-launches of the Marvel Now initiative – but just because Tony is still fundamentally the same man dealing with essentially the same conflicts, don’t mistake this for business as usual. Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man is an unusually thoughtful adventure, and it continues the hero’s run of strong, character-focused stories that push Tony forward without trying to break the formula of who he is and why he works.

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Review – Archer & Armstrong: The Michelangelo Code

Fred Van Lente’s Archer & Armstrong, part of the inordinately strong Valiant relaunch, might just be the best of a very good bunch.

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As someone who has been reviewing comics for five years now, I’ve always hated one response that I seem to get regularly when I criticize certain fan-favorite writers for slack storytelling skills. Essentially, “You’re just overthinking it. Can’t you just turn your brain off and have fun?” It’s just never seemed like a good reason to excuse bad work – I love turning my brain off and enjoying something like Crank 2: High Voltage or Zoolander, movies that are exceptionally well-made bits of fluff, that know exactly what they want to do or say and dedicate every resource they have to achieving precisely that effect.  It’s what separates, say, Blazing Saddles from Epic Movie – both may be in the same genre, neither requires too much thought to enjoy, but one (Blazing Saddles) clearly loves and understands the genre and tropes it’s parodying, while the other coasts off of recognizing obvious references. There’s no joke, just the thrill of being ‘in’ on it, whatever it is. Just because your job is to get me to relax and have a good time doesn’t mean I should forgive you for being bad at it.

All of which is to say that Archer & Armstrong: The Michelangelo Code is simple, turn-off-your-brain escapist entertainment – and it is very, very good at doing what it sets out to do. Like with many of the classic Mel Brooks or Zucker-Abrams-Zucker spoofs, it absolutely errs on the side of broadness at times, of throwing too many gags at the wall and hoping some will stick, but as you read, you can also feel just how much fun writer Fred Van Lente and his crew are having. In his excellent run on The Incredible Hercules, Van Lente showed that he knew how to make a mismatched pair of friends bounce off one another in entertaining, endlessly readable ways, but he really seems to kick things up a notch here. Divorced from Marvel continuity, Archer & Armstrong gets weird – and fun! – in ways The Incredible Hercules never could.

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