Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews you never asked for!
I've noticed something recently. Chalk it up to the strange times we're living in right now, but it seems like EVERY comic review site has suddenly transformed into a Longbox Junk franchise. There's reviews of back issues all over the place these days! How can a humble Longbox Junker like myself stand out when EVERYBODY has gone off the shelf and into the bins for material?
And so I ponder the question as I browse the shiny new Longbox Junk franchises I normally read my current comic reviews at. And as I ponder, I realize the answer is right up at the top of this very page!
Those other guys are doing reviews of Batman, Nightwing, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern Avengers, Thor, X-Force, Wolverine, Deadpool, Spider-Verse, and so on and so forth. That's cool. Keepin' the lights on, at least.
BUT. . .
Who's doing reviews of New 52 Blackhawks? Who's gonna review Marvel's New Universe Justice? Who's digging deep enough to suffer through Acclaim's Gawd-Awful sequel to Waterworld. . .Children of Leviathan? Does anyone even know there IS a Gawd-Awful comic sequel to Waterworld? Who's writing reviews that NOBODY ever asked for? WHO?
You know who. And I'm taking this opportunity to thank you for reading. I really do appreciate you fine folks who take a bit of your precious time to come here and (hopefully) enjoy what I do. It means a lot to me.
ANYWAY. . .I'm not complaining about the other guys doing what they have to do. Just something that I've been thinking about lately. And seriously, thanks for reading!
Enough of that.
Due to my strange new work schedule (I don't even want to try and describe it), I have lots of time to READ comics, but finding time to write about them has become a bit challenging. So I'm going to break away from what I normally do. . .mostly limited series. . .and focus on some single issues for a little while. And so with that, we (FINALLY) come to the comics at hand. . .a pair of #1 issues I recently pulled from the back issue bins. One from Marvel, one from DC. Let's do it!
FIRST ISSUE FUN - PART ONE
YOUNG ALLIES #1
Now, Not Tomorrow - Part 1: No Turning Back
SCRIPT: Sean McKeever
PENCILS: David Baldeon
COVER: David Lafuente
A very nice fold out team action shot! Great colors, great composition, a nice sense of movement. I like this cover a lot. It's a real eye-catcher and pretty much the reason I picked up this issue in the first place, because I had no idea who any of these characters are. Let's get inside!
We begin our tale with a prologue set in Columbia, where a young boy named Benito is kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier. Later, we see that he is also forced to undergo strange experiments meant to raise his strength and make him resistant to damage.
Moving forward into the present day, we find Rikki Barnes (AKA Nomad) and her best friend, Anya Corazon (AKA Arana/Spider-Girl) stopping the robbery of a grocery store. This leads to an extended rooftop conversation/ exposition dump about their background and current status. . .Nomad is from another dimension where she was the companion to that world's Captain America. She's now trapped in this world trying to connect with THIS Cap. Arana used to have super powers and was Spider-Girl, but now she's lost her powers but is still trying to be a super hero without them, and not doing very well at it.
We then change scene to the campus of a local college for another extended info dump, where we are introduced to Greg Willis (AKA Gravity), a young superhero who has some pretty hardcore ideas about what to do with supervillains. . .on the spot execution. We are also introduced to his more liberal foil/friend, Angelica Jones (AKA Firestar), a young mutant that was once tricked into working for villains and is now trying to make up for her mistake. She's a more experienced hero, having served alongside the X-Men and Avengers.
AND THEN. . .
Now that introductions are over, an explosion rocks downtown New York, attracting the attention of all of the young heroes we've just met. As they all rush toward the commotion, Firestar arrives first and discovers a team of young super-powered villains laying waste to downtown property and killing any civilians in their path.
As the rest of the heroes arrive, a super-powered brawl in the streets of New York ensues where (through shouted exposition between punches and power blasts) we learn that the deadly troublemakers are: Aftershock (daughter of Electro), Ember (son of Pyro), Mortar (daughter of Grey Gargoyle), Singularity (son of Graviton), and Warhead (son of Radioactive Man). . .collectively known as "The Bastards of Evil", a team of unwanted children of various supervillains.
During the fight, Spider-Girl is blasted away from the battle by Singularity's gravity powers and thrown into the Statue of Liberty, where she is rescued by a mysterious boy that changes into a hulking figure. We learn that he is the kidnapped child soldier from the prologue. . .Benito Serrano (AKA Toro).
The battle slowly begins to turn in favor of the heroes. . .even though it goes mysteriously unnoticed by The Avengers, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Defenders, and probably a half-dozen other New York-based super-teams and heroes I can't think of off the top of my head. . .BUT I DIGRESS!
Seeing their impending defeat, the villain Warhead makes his way to the Ground Zero Memorial at the site of the former World Trade Center, where he detonates himself with a gigantic nuclear explosion!
To be continued. . .
Maybe the Avengers will notice THAT.
Hmmm. . .not bad. Not great. . .but not too bad. What we have here is a #1 issue that pretty much does what a #1 issue should. It introduces the heroes, the villains, and the conflict. It doesn't try to reach beyond that, and as a new reader that's something I can appreciate because it's pretty clear to see from the amount of exposition presented that all of these characters have a pretty deep back story.
Marvel also reaches out to new readers who might want a little more information on these established characters with a biography page for each of them (including back issue info for more reading!) in the rear. A VERY nice touch that kept me from having to hit Wikipedia.
It's not very often that you see that kind of interest in bringing in new readers, so definitely credit for Marvel where credit is due. Too bad it was in service to a series that only lasted six issues. Still, a surprisingly strong effort.
Beyond the very nice outreach to new readers, this issue is pretty basic in nature. It's about half introduction and half superhero vs. supervillain battle. The writing is fast-paced and the art is kinetic and brilliantly-colored, matching the youthful direction of this title quite well. It's not the greatest writing or the best comic art I've ever seen, but both do a great job of getting this series off the ground and running.
Overall, I liked this comic. Like I said above, it doesn't have the greatest writing or art I've ever seen, but it's fun and everything fits together nicely for a solid introduction. Marvel's reach for new readers on this series deserves another round of applause as well.
Unfortunately, I'm personally not a fan of superhero team books and even less so of teen superheroes. But I'm not really the audience Marvel was trying for here. My comic lovin' daughter gave this a read and LOVED it! She liked the "Marvel-Style Teen Titans" vibe of it a lot. My LCS has the other 5 issues in their bins and she plans on buying them next trip out.
Given her enthusiastic reception and my admiration for Marvel's attention toward new readers on this one, I think I can safely say that if you're a fan of teen super-teams, you'll probably like this series if you're looking for something fun and a little under the radar. Pick it up if you spot it in the back issue bins and give it a try. It's only 6 issues, so it should be pretty easy to collect.
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN
SCRIPT: Tony S. Daniel
PENCILS: Philip Tan
COVER: Philip Tan
Normally, I'm a bit of a sucker for covers with monochromatic backgrounds, but for some reason the plain white doesn't really do it for me on this one. The portrait of Hawkman himself is very nicely done, though. It has great colors and a nice sense of "in your face" forward movement. I'm a little cool on the white background, but I'd still give this one a turn on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.
We begin by being introduced to a man named Carter Hall, driving alone through upstate New York and filled with dark thoughts of regret. He walks into the woods and tries to burn a strange costume, but the fire grows out of control and a gigantic flaming bird of prey looms over Carter as the flames consume him.
ELSEWHERE. . .
Off the Bermuda coast, an expedition led by a Professor Ziegler has pulled up a large piece of wreckage from the sea floor. Upon inspection, the Professor believes it is part of an alien craft! He orders the strange wreckage shipped to his laboratory. Noting some markings on the wreckage he'd like translated, Ziegler tries to locate his resident Cryptologist (none other than Carter Hall) but is informed that nobody has seen him for weeks. . .
LATER. . .
We return to Carter Hall as he slowly wakes up on the floor of his apartment. After being engulfed in flame, Hall wonders how he is alive, let alone back home hours away from where he was. Before he can ponder the mystery for long, his friend Terrance arrives to inform Hall that Professor Ziegler has an assignment studying the mysterious alien wreckage waiting for him.
Soon afterward, Hall and Terrance arrive at Professor Ziegler's laboratory. The Professor informs him about finding the alien wreckage, as well as a new development. Since bringing it to the laboratory for further study, the wreckage has revealed an exciting find. . .some sort of mummified alien body!
WHEN SUDDENLY. . .
As Ziegler's scientists proceed with tests on the alien mummy, a biological sample of fluid from the mummy comes alive and envelopes the terrified scientists in black goo. As the scientist is quickly transformed into a bizarre creature that breaks free from the containment cell and begins to wreak havoc, Carter Hall jumps into action!
As he tries to hold back the creature while Ziegler and the rest of the scientists make their escape, Hall quickly discovers that small pieces of the creature he is knocking off with an ax are growing into duplicates! Outnumbered and seemingly defeated, Hall's skin begins to bubble and the Hawkman armor he thought he'd burned grows through his skin to protect him. Somehow the "Nth Metal" the armor is made of is now somehow inside him!
This strange new development seems to turn the battle's tide to favor Hall. . .now once again Hawkman! That is until the controlling alien entity introduces itself as "Morphicius" and takes an interest in the properties of Hall's armor, bringing the duplicates back into itself and becoming a single huge enemy that quickly overwhelms Hawkman and begins absorbing his life force. . .transforming Morphicius into a bizarre Alien/Hawkman hybrid as Hawkman lies helpless!
To be continued. . .
This MIGHT be a bit of a problem. . .
Hmmmmm. . .okay then.
Unlike the first Young Allies issue reviewed above, Savage Hawkman #1 doesn't make the slightest effort to reach out to new readers. . .which is not only unfortunate in that I'm not overly-familiar with Hawkman except through his B-List Justice League role, but also in light of the New 52 SUPPOSEDLY being a complete re-start and jumping on point for all of DC's comics at the time. I'm not going to get too negative, but Savage Hawkman pretty much fails in being an introduction to this character's solo adventures for new readers.
So that's the bad. Let's talk about what's good in this comic.
Beyond expecting readers to already be completely familiar with Hawkman, the story itself is pretty good. It's more than a little derivative of Marvel's "Venom", or any other "The mysterious alien goo is takin' over!" storyline for that matter, but I can dig a little "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" in my funny books.
It's not the greatest comic story I've ever read, but it is well-written and gets this series off to enough of a running start that I wouldn't mind picking up a few more issues to see where things go. . .There's 19 more regular issues plus a "zero" issue (which were the New 52's annuals for one year), so there's definitely more room for development going forward, despite the start being a bit shaky for new readers.
While the story is pretty good, the art is almost worth the price of admission by itself! Philip Tan does a stellar job of selling this comic with a style that really shines during action scenes, giving static images a cinematic flair that almost seems to move on the page! Combined with some fantastic colors that really make individual elements of the panels pop in a big way, the art is definitely the best part of Savage Hawkman.
Overall, what we have here is an introductory issue that's a bit disappointing in that it's not a great introduction to Hawkman for new readers. Beyond that, it has a well-written (if a bit derivative) story backed up by some really great art.
I was hooked JUST enough to want to see more, but I think this would appeal more to established fans of Hawkman, and that's who I would really recommend Savage Hawkman to. For anyone else, I'd say give it a fair try if you spot it in the bargain bin, but definitely don't pay full price for it because you might not feel like you got your money's worth.
The two issues at hand are sort of a study in contrasts. One is a brightly-colored team book aimed at younger comic fans and making an admirable effort at drawing in new readers. The other is a dark and violent tale aimed at mature readers that doesn't even make a token effort to provide any background for the main character.
Both of these issues are good in their own way. Young Allies was fun and did a great job introducing characters I didn't know. Savage Hawkman is the sort of darker story I enjoy and it had some outstanding art.
Both issues were also a little disappointing as well. Young Allies was a little TOO light and youthful for a guy in his 50's and Savage Hawkman was a pretty lousy introductory issue. But these small problems weren't nearly enough to keep me from enjoying both issues enough to want to read more.
Overall, I'd recommend both for a decent bargain bin read. Young Allies will probably appeal more to fans of teen superhero teams, and Savage Hawkman will probably appeal more to established Hawkman fans, so keep that in mind, but neither one of these issues have enough problems that I'd say to pass them up entirely. They're both pretty good. Give them a shot if you spot them in the bin.
Up Next. . .
More "First Issue Fun" as I spotlight a couple more #1 issues I've recently grabbed from the back issue boxes.
Be there or be square!