Monday, February 4, 2008

Polar Opposites

Today I have a special treat. Since I haven't been around much, I'm presenting two reviews for the price of one! And since the price of one review costs nothing, it's the best deal you'll find online! Not only that, but I'm reviewing both major licenses today, as one of my reviews is from DC Comics, the other from their competitor Marvel Comics. Finally, topping all that, both titles are written by the top writers in both organizations, promising me an unparalleled level of enjoyment bringing these titles to you!

Our first review is of Green Lantern #27, written by one of my personal favorites Geoff Johns (52, Booster Gold) and penciled by Mike McKone (Teen Titans, Fantastic Four). It's an interesting time in for the Green Lantern Corps. The Sinestro War is over. It cost the lives of many Green Lanterns and caused the Guardians to enact ten new rules in the Book of Oa. First and foremost of those rules is the ability for Green Lanterns to use lethal force, the lack of which had seriously hurt the Lanterns for much of the Sinestro War. The processing plant that had created yellow power rings for the Sinestro Corps has been destroyed. But most of the new laws of the Book of Oa are still a mystery, and most Green Lanterns are tasked with tracking down the remaining Sinestro Corps rings that still search the cosmos looking for new owners.

That's how this issue opens, with Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and John Stewart being called in to retrieve a yellow ring inbound to Earth. Eventually the intergalactic policemen catch up to the ring before Jonathan "The Scarecrow" Crane can be properly recruited to the still-dangerous Sinestro Corps, but in checking, they find the ring belonged to Amon Sur, the son of the man who recruited Hal Jordan to the GL Corps in the first place.

We're then brought to a GL meeting room, where several Green Lanterns attempt to come to terms with something they've never had to before; GL Laira of sector 112 is accused of murdering Amon Sur, who had slaughtered the family of a fallen Green Lantern before attempting to surrender himself to the so-called "Lost Lanterns." Laira had responded by killing Amon Sur in a blind rage, having to be restrained by her teammates. It immediately brings into question the first new Law of Oa, which grants lethal force, but doesn't implicitly express when to use it. Eventually Jordan and Stewart arrive to question how this happened, when the Guardians appear. Not wanting to justify cold-blooded murder, the Guardians create the Alpha Lanterns, kind of an internal affairs organization within the Corps to police the police. Six Green Lanterns are chosen to represent the new Alpha Lanterns (including Lost Lantern Boodika, pictured above), with only John Stewart declining, choosing not to take part until he learns more about Oa's new laws.

There's not a whole lot of action in this book, being mostly a talkie about the morality of murdering a murderer, and introducing the new Alpha Lanterns. But it's a talkie done well, as Geoff Johns expertly creates dialog between the conflicting Green Lanterns and the Guardians. Major changes would appear to be in store for this title (and it's sister title, Green Lantern Corps) and I wouldn't trust it better in any other writer's hands. McKone's artwork is equally excellent. Most of the settings are in the Green Lantern headquarters, so most of the backgrounds are green with little hint to the specific rooms the characters inhabit, but the character artwork is excellent enough to make that critique a small quibble. McKone had a blast drawing all the Green Lanterns, and the scene of the power ring entering Arkham to find the Scarecrow is fantastically drawn. An excellent job all around on this title, one that I'm really getting into reading on a regular basis.

And here's another title I've been in love with of late. Written by Brian Michael Bendis (all the Avengers titles) and penciled by Carlo Pagulayan (Planet Hulk, Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four), New Avengers Annual #2 rectifies one of the biggest let-downs of this series. At the end of issue 37 of this series, The organization put together by Parker "The Hood" Robbins was dismantled and put away by the New Avengers. The Hood responds... by breaking into the prison his people are in and getting out every last one of them. What kind of anti-climactic bull is that? That issue left a bad taste in my mouth, that this team would go through all the trouble of rounding up these criminals (all of it while unregistered, mind you) just to have one unused villain undo all they did in one fell swoop.

On top of that, this team of New Avengers is probably the most mismatched team of heroes on the market right now. I like the use of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Echo and Ronin (Clint Barton) on the team, and I love anything I see Stephen Strange in, but Spider-Man and Wolverine? They may be the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe right now (and probably for a long time after today) but Wolverine is a known mutant with the X-Men, and Spider-Man as he exists now woudn't really be part of this group anymore.

It makes for great team chemistry, however, as the group returns to the home of Stephen Strange from their latest mission successful. They're not uninjured however, as Dr. Strange must be taken to his room by his assistant Wong and his girlfriend the Night Nurse. The rest are just looking forward to a night without any more activity, without worrying about hoods or Skrulls or symbiotes. Too bad for them The Hood has gathered no less than twenty-five supervillains (including the Wrecking Crew, Madame Masque, The Wizard and Jigsaw) with the intent of storming Strange's home and destroying the New Avengers on their own turf, much like the Masters of Evil that did the same ten years ago.

What follows can only be described as an awesome battle royale of near-biblical proportions, as the villains pile up on the weary heroes. In essence, it's the complete opposite of Green Lantern, all action with little moral chatter or much dialogue at all. It's just a pile-on, one in which the heroes are hanging on by the tips of their fingers.

This issue is one of my favorites of Bendis'. He ties this annual deftly into the current Avengers story, and also including references to World War Hulk. He continues to be one of my favorite writers, even if it does seem like Marvel entrusts far too much of the universe's current storytelling solely to him. The Avengers' titles are his baby, though, and he's hardly made any missteps in their telling. And the twists he introduce at the end create a true cliffhanger, as the team will have to make some changes after this issue to continue to exist. Pagulayan does an unexpectedly fantastic job in this issue. Sometimes I think his art can get a little too gritty at times, but this issue is surprisingly clean, with colors blending perfectly with his pencilwork. Pagulayan probably has never had to draw this much action in a single issue, and he obviously reveled in the chance to create as much destruction as thirty-plus superpowered individuals could do in the span of thirty-six pages. Also, I liked the ad-cameo for Oceanic Airlines, as a Lost fan myself I have to smile at that little thing in there to identify with the comic creators on some level.

The verdict is in! We love both Marvel and DC titles! Both New Avengers and Green Lantern represent some of the best their companies have to offer, and we're always excited to see consistantly great work on the shelves for purchase. Read these with our blessings, you won't go wrong curling up with either of these titles on a cold New England evening.