Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday Number Ones 5/2/12

Wednesday Number Ones is a weekly feature here at Top 5 Comics. We take the books that are premiering a first issue from that week and give a quick opinion on them. From time to time we may also include more than issue number ones in this feature. If a noteworthy one-shot or the first issue of a new story arc is released, we may talk about it in this feature as well.

This week, we will cover:  Dial H #1, Earth 2 #1, GI Combat #1, Smallville Season 11 #1, World's Finest #1, and X/O Manowar #1.

Dial H #1
Writer: China Mieville
Artist: Mateus Santolouco
Company: DC Comics
While the first few pages are a bit of a slog to get through, with it's down on his luck main character arguing with his best friend...When things get going and the strange factor is hit with a giant fist of fury, they get going. Novelist China Meiville takes a crack at comics with this return to the Dial H concept. I have never read the original stuff that appeared in Adventure Comics, but the 2003 series H.E.R.O., written by Will Pfeifer, holds a special place on my bookshelf. The concept of stepping into a phone booth and becoming a superhero is unique and Meiville makes the idea his own while still keeping to the original context. The zany character of Boy Chimney, which appears in this issue and attacks people with smoke, alone bars some sort of award for astounding creativity. Santolouco's artwork is dark and moody and reminds me a bit of art in the vein of David Finch, especially in the more talkative scenes. There is more of a fluid feel to the line, which allows the action sequences to breathe and have that exciting edge. While I'm unsure of how long this book can sustain an ongoing story, the horror angle and the cast of strange characters that seem to pour out of Mieville's head and telephone booth brings a lot to the table.

Earth 2 #1
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Nicola Scott
Company: DC Comics
Another entry in the Second Wave of New 52 titles, Earth 2 is a title that will essentially star the Justice Society, though not in quite the way that you'd think. Writer James Robinson comes out of the gate swinging with an action piece spanning 3/4 of the book, making for a very exciting opening gambit that bucks tradition and manages to actually surprise. The way that he handles iterations of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman as they take on a planet wide threat feels both heroic and dark, things that I believe many people are looking for in their comics. I also think he does a hefty amount of world building in a short amount of time, all of it interesting. Nicola Scott, the woman behind the beautifully dark art in Secret Six, has only gotten better in her craft. The action is smooth and loud and dynamic and she packs a wallop into every panel that entices all of the proper senses. Her renditions of our heroes, decked out in garb that feels both new and traditional, is great. I don't think that there's a negative thing that I could say about it. All in all, this seems to be Robinson near the top of his game. Whether or not this new version of the Justice Society will be what the old fans are looking for remains to be seen, but I'm intrigued.

X-O Manowar #1
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Cary Nord
Company: Valiant Entertainment
Braveheart meets Conan meets Sci-Fi. That in a nutshell are the different things that make up the core of  X-O Manowar. It's a cool idea, though this first issue does have a few low points. This is definitely a re-imagining of the original series by writer Robert (Surrogates) Venditti. The players are the same (Aric of Dacia and heir to the Visigoth people), but the pacing of this opener is a tad on the slower side. It isn't a huge hurdle to tackle, and there is violence and action and speeches a plenty to keep the reader occupied and engaged, but it is an issue that I hope is addressed. I think the bigger draw here is Cary Nord's artwork. The work that Nord did for Conan when it was relaunched skyrocketed his popularity and since then, every piece of work he's done has had that same bad-assery assimilated into it. With X-O, there's a rougher edge to his lines that separates it from the more painted look that we're used to. He's also able to juggle everything that the story throws at you, be it suits of traditional armor to space craft to aliens to sword on sword battles. He makes it all exciting and fun and visually appealing. While I do think the story has room for improvement, it's a solid enough first issue.

Smallville Season 11 #1
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Artist: Pere Perez
Company: DC Comics
While I will say that I watched much of Smallville, I don't think that I could ever say that I was a huge fan of it. That sounds strange, but it was true. That said, while this comic does contain a Smallville type flavor, it's really just a solid Superman comic. Yes, it helps if you watched the show, as you'll get a few more of the little bits and pieces that are mentioned, but I don't think that it's necessary. Bryan Q. Miller, the mastermind of the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series, knows a thing or two about writing youthful and exuberant characters and putting them in interesting situations. Not to mentioning writing a comic that is very approachable This outing we get a lot of world building, an intro to the cast of characters (everyone from Oliver Queen to Lex Luthor) and more of the Super in Superman than we ever got in the actual television show. The "threat" feels more of an after-though, but it's interesting enough. Artist Pere Perez's clean lined style does wonders for the book. It's inviting and bright and extremely easy to read. He even gets the likenesses of the character's rather well, which is something that I wasn't expecting. While I don't know if a Season 11 is needed, I'm simply happy to have Bryan Miller writing a comic again.

World's Finest #1
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: George Perez, Scott Koblish, & Kevin Maguire
Company: DC Comics
With the success of The Huntress mini-series, Paul Levitz has proved to be force to be reckoned with with books that don't involve the Legion of Superheroes. It's odd, as Levitz is usally one of those guys that doesn't impress me, but he's definitely on a hot streak. Things are no different with World's Finest. Levitz deftly handles both the action sequences and the humor/quieter moments and really allows the characters to take center stage. You get to see the DCU through both Huntress and Power Girl's eyes, who happen to be relics of Earth 2 and are searching for a way back. There's a down to earth meets secret agent vibe that sets it apart from a lot of the other DC books. Levitz also allows you to see the pair's past antics, and provides a nice tie-in to what occurs in the first issue of Earth 2, but I won't spoil such a cool reveal. On the art side of things, while there is a jarring aspect to the affair as Perez and Maguire change back and forth throughout, both artists do an amazing job. Maguire's patented focus on character emotion definitely takes center stage. His smooth and dazzling lines, not to mention the designs for both Robin and Supergirl, are in complete contrast to Perez's more controlled and jam-packed style, but somehow the two work. If you were a fan of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti's Power Girl series, World's Finest feels like a great successor. And if you weren't and are just in a action meets humor meets superhero type vibe, I highly recommend this opening issue.

GI Combat #1
Writers: J.T. Krul, Justin Gray, & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Ariel Olivetti & Dan Panosian
Company: DC Comics
Split into two tales, in GI Combat we get the less than exciting tale of the military versus dinosaurs in the War that Time Forgot and fairly righteous outing with the Unknown Solider. Krul is the guy behind the dino battle and it really is a by the numbers affair with spiffy, computer rendered, artwork by Ariel (Cable) Olivetti. The second story, written by the team of Gray and Palmiotti is where it's at though. In a small amount of time, the writing duo make you care about and give a healthy backstory to a man who is essentially a faceless Punisher of a modern era war meets Black Hawk Down. Dan Panosian does a great job with what he's been given. His rough and rocky and wild style feels in tune with the artists who were working on the Punisher Max series. There's even a bit of Brian Azzarello in the work. His lines are detailed but expressive and really get you into the story that's being told. All in all, it's a win/lose situation with GI Combat. I keep hoping that Krul will spin out a tale that does something for me, and he started to with his Flashpoint tie-in, but he can't quite get there. In other words, I'd rather this have been 22 pages of The Unknown Solider.

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