Hobby Hole: Sept. 4, 2013 Comic Book Reviews

Green Arrow no. 23.1 Count Vertigo no. 1 by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino | DC | $3.99/$2.99

Can we just take a moment to acknowledge the existence, albeit fleeting, of another Warren? That makes two ongoing books I currently read (Sex is the other) featuring characters of that name, while Fatale recently did the same. It's a shame none have given us a good name, but at least I know it's still in the collective consciousness.

As the first of the "Villain's Month" books I read, Count Vertigo set a high standard. Equal parts origin and continuation of the main plot, Count Vertigo likely could have been just another normal Green Arrow issue, albeit one lacking the title character. However, while the look into the count's past was interesting and revealed the dark machinations that led to his turn toward villainy, I found the scenes from the present more enjoyable, if not far less predictable.

Sorrentino continues to shine, though this wasn't his strongest issue. Panels are tight and restrictive, and the majority of the issue focused on talking heads that looked comparatively stiff next to the few action pieces. And while the color drop toward the end helped evoke a pleasant surprise, the inverted, skewed panels throughout the book were simply offputting and, at times, confusing, as their inclusion didn't seem to further the plot.

But this is Count Vertigo we're talking about, so I suppose offputting is precisely the point.

Hobby Hole score: 8.4/Great

Justice League Dark no. 23.1 Creeper no. 1 by Ann Nocenti, ChrisCross, Fabrizio Fiorentino and Tom Derenick | DC | $3.99/$2.99

This book highlights some of DC's mistakes in marketing "Villain's Month." As a rebranded issue of Justice League Dark, one would expect something of a connection, even the most passing, to the ongoing threads of the series. But no, Creeper instead continues beats from Katana and Phantom Stranger—neither of which I've read—and offers no indication anything will be resolved in future issues.

I could look past this if Creeper proved worth my $3.99 (this issue was one of two books I purchased solely due to the 3D covers). But it didn't, and I won't be making such a purchasing mistake again this month. I actually wanted to put the book down a few times while reading because the plot meandered so wildly, unnecessarily switching perspectives and main characters along with artists while skipping across multiple time periods without any true explanation or reason.

The pencils, done by three separate artists, is too varied to leave a good taste either, with the first few pages the strongest and the action scenes toward the end the weakest. For instance, without the insertion of a few sound effects, it would have been nigh impossible to determine what was being portrayed.

If you spot this book in second printing, don't bother picking it up. There are much better books worth your cash.

Hobby Hole score: 3.1/Dismal

Forever Evil no. 1 by Geoff Johns and David Finch | DC | $3.99

Having reread the last three issues of "Trinity War" over the past week, I fully expected Forever Evil's premiere to followup on the crossover's cliffhanger. Instead, the expected battle between the entirety of the Justice League (all three iteration) and the Crime Syndicate apparently occurs off-panel.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing (it doesn't leave nearly as bad a taste as Age of Ultron), and leads to some rather interesting disbelief from the united villainy as they're handed tokens of the team's defeat—it's just not what I expected. The book overflowed with such subtle surprises, not all of which were likely intentional ("Trinity War" highlighted an imprisoned Lex Luthor, while this issue shows him flying free without so much as a throwaway explanation or editorial caption), though the Kryptonite-snorting Superman was surprisingly amusing and the aforementioned doubt led to my second largest WTF moment of a comic this week.

Perhaps it's my unfamiliarity with DC event books that surprised and excited me so, but I believe the issue was simply written just that well. And, for the most part, the art carries the premiere just as well, offering some fantastic, albeit mostly subdued, visuals, including a central foldout touting a bevy of villains from all walks of life. There were some points, particularly in medium shots, where the art appeared more scratchy, and I wasn't 100 percent certain Lex was Lex until he delivered one of the most horrific and comprehensive threats I've read in some time, but the quality was leaps and bounds ahead of Finch's recent forays in Justice League of America.

Hobby Hole score: 8.6/Great

Batman no. 23.1 Joker no. 1 by Andy Kubert and Andy Clarke | DC | $3.99/$2.99

Confession: As with Creeper, I purchased Joker solely because of its cover. I had read the solicitation and hadn't been interested enough to warrant the purchase, but that cover. Man. It's great.

Thankfully, unlike Creeper, I actually enjoyed this issue. Perhaps not as much as some others, but I came away entertained, confused, disturbed and, more than anything else, amused. That's exactly what I expect from a Joker book.

My only exposures to the character of late have been the "Death of the Family" arc and Batman: Arkham Asylum, so, as something of a flashback to Joker's more innocent beginnings, this lighthearted, more clownish version didn't mesh well with the darker, more twisted iteration I had come to expect. This was perhaps due to the narrative captions, told from Joker's perspective, and, somewhat like the Punisher, I don't expect Joker to narrate.
Still, the storyline was nothing short of bizarre, with enough twisted debauchery to appease most Batman fans, especially those of the classic villains. The art was also incredibly fitting and simultaneously provided a slick presentation for the modern day and a scratchy, almost flawed vision of the past—exactly how I would picture Joker's take on his own childhood.

Also, you can't go wrong with gun-toting, rocket-firing, sympathetic apes that attain more character development in fifteen or so pages than many characters get their whole career.

Hobby Hole score: 7.8/Alright

Satellite Sam no. 3 by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin | Image | $3.50

I don't know about this series. At times, I love it. At others, I'm just confused amid my loss of interest. My feelings with this third issue are no different, as the multiple threads continue to devolve among the ancillary characters and meandering plotting. The main storyline concerning the former Satellite Sam and his breadth of scandalous photographs is by far the most interesting at the moment—if not the most thoroughly developed—but is plagued by interruption and, at times, quite awkward transitions.

Much of the inherent confusion would undoubtedly be removed if Satellite Sam had been colored rather than presented in simple black and white, but, alas, that's not the case and the art remains the weakest aspect of this book (though, in this issue's case, not by a large margin). Though the composition is fine, details are sorely lacking compared to the first two issues, and dialogue is positioned in a few areas so that it can be easily misread.

This issue may prove stronger after a second read—the first two managed a similar feat--but another perusal couldn't change the ending, which simply drops in media res, so much so that I turned the page expecting more. If the end had been drawn differently, I believe it could have worked, but the dialogue's positioning in the final, relatively small panel simply left me wanting more—and not in a good way.

Hobby Hole score: 6.5/Meh

Trillium no. 2 by Jeff Lemire | DC | $2.99

Coming off the unique storytelling method of the first issue, I wondered how Lemire would present the second issue now that the two protagonists have met. While it could be argued little happened in this sophomore album compared to the premiere, this issue was, in terms of storytelling, just as strong as the first.

As important as the overall mystery behind the temple and the alien species remains, Trillium has been billed as a love story, and we get the first hints of that here as we witness the two characters interact for the first time. Though there appears to be some attraction, it isn't until the flower from which the book derives its namesake reappears that we begin to see and understand the protagonists' relationship—of course, as Lemire often does, there are hints of something deeper, something we've yet to understand or be made privy to.

While the dashes representing the inability to communicate amused me and did a great job representing the protagonists' dilemma, my favorite bit this issue was something that easily could have gone unnoticed: the borders. Around each page, the borders shifted to denote the character whose perspective we were following. Though obvious in the context of the story, it was a clever way to continue the flipbook pattern without relying on the same device. Most noticeable, perhaps, was when the borders vanished, in that beautiful spread toward the end. There needs to be more books like this.

Hobby Hole score: 8.9/Great

Über no. 5 by Kieron Gillen and Canaan White | Avatar | $3.99

The first thing I wrote in my notebook after reading this issue: Holy fuck I love Kieron Gillen.

I mentioned above that Forever Evil managed the second largest WTF moment this week; it was Über that took top honors with a plot turn I not only failed to predict, but one that made me gasp with surprise. I won't spoil it here, but after the developments of the last few issues, I fully believed the plot would turn in quite a different direction. Well done, Kieron.

I would be remiss not to praise Canaan White as well, as his art has been growing steadily stronger every issue. This fifth book is perhaps the lightest on dialogue and exposition of the series so far, and as such is carried almost exclusively by the art. There's no disappointment here, and though the visuals aren't necessarily varied, per say, the extreme vulgarity is certainly beautiful, despite being absolutely cringe-worthy.
This book has only gotten better. I can’t wait for the next issue.

Hobby Hole score: 9.3/Fantastic