Hobby Hole: Oct. 30, 2013 Comic Book Reviews

Aquaman Annual no. 2 by John Ostrander, Geraldo Borges and Ruy Jose | DC | $4.99

Geoff Johns' subtly fantastic run of Aquaman, typified with slow, progressive character development, was my first exposure to the Aquaman ever. So, it's natural to say that this issue, which read more like an early issue of Claremont's classic, yet outdated, Uncanny X-Men run, was a horrible letdown.

The Others, Aquaman's hidden team of operatives, have been a highlight for the series since their introduction, so I was excited to read a new issue spotlighting them. However, the annual's plot was completely derivative, the dialogue stiff and self-explanatory, and the characterization non-existent, if incredibly paint by numbers. As mentioned, it read like a comic more from the bronze or silver age than something released only yesterday.

The art was much of the same, lacking any modern design or ambition. It told what was available of the story, but did nothing positively spectacular or surprising. However, it did confuse me, as the design for Aquaman's throne did not match one I've seen in the ongoing run. Plus, last I saw, the throne room was no more. When does this storyline take place? Is it meant to be some point in the future? It's never stated. But that's as well, as this issue should probably just be forgotten.

Hobby Hole score: 5.0/Forgettable

Saga no. 14 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples | Image | $2.99
I was sitting in the kitchen reading Saga while my wife was playing with our dog, and about 75 percent through the book, I gasped. Loudly. I looked up in the sudden silence to see them both staring at me.

Yeah, Saga's that good.

As great as the plot was—admittedly, I was letdown we didn't get to witness the servicemen's hallucinations, but the rest of the issue's developments more than made up for the oversight (seriously, that game is the coolest I've seen since True American)—it was the art that truly did it for me this issue. Maybe it was the casual nature of the brief storyline, but I honestly felt like I was a character in the book. That panel where we're looking at Klara watching Alana out the window? I was D. Oswald Heist checking out her rear end. It wasn't until the next panel I realized just how odd and how unusual that truly was, especially in comics.

Hobby Hole score: 9.7/Fantastic
Previous issue's score: 9.3/Fantastic


Sandman: Overture no. 1 by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III | DC | $4.99

Like I explain below, I read Swamp Thing Annual no. 2 immediately before this, and that completely ruined this for me. Because, as beautiful as Overture was, it completely paled in comparison to that near perfect read. 

I've only read Sandman in collected format, so I'm uncertain whether or not the series proper reads the same way, but Overture seems like it will read much, much better once bound together. This issue, which offered glances at a few series' staples, offered little but buildup, without an indication as to what it's building toward, and suffered for it, especially since there was no singular character readers could empathize with. The only character who appears outside of a cameo, Morpheus, simply seems too... abstract to connect with at this point of the tale. And really, I'm not entirely certain what happened.

The real draw for me, since I didn't originally plan to purchase this book, was the art. Williams straight up kills it. Almost every page is a pin up, but it never feels overly-done, as though it were stiff or posed. It's completely natural and organic, benefits greatly by strong coloring, and would have been perfectly fine offered on its own. I imagine prints from the book will sell well come next con season, even if the story never increases in quality.

Hobby Hole score: 8.1/Great

Swamp Thing Annual no. 2 by Charles Soule, Javier Pina and Kano | DC | $4.99

This was the second to last book I read yesterday, decidedly leaving Sandman: Overture for last. A few pages in, I began to hotly anticipate reading Gaiman's new series. That's because, in this issue, Soule crafted a unique take on Swamp Thing's backstory, offering multiple versions throughout the ages, much as I had heard would be done in Sandman.

Well, this book made Sandman: Overture look like garbage. 

I mean, how could that book have ever topped a dinosaur Swamp Thing?!? Or a Benjamin Franklin or samurai-inspired version? Or a weed that could kill you? Okay, that last bit was closely mirrored by the Dream plant, but this version was far more charismatic (and, hopefully, not the last appearance). It wasn't even just the spectacular plot; the art was also ingeniously handled, from every incredible bit of character design to every eccentric layout. Even the credits made me laugh!

More people likely bought Sandman: Overture yesterday than bought this annual. If you did, do yourself a favor and go pick this up if it's still available. It was my book of the week, and more worth the $4.99 price tag than Overture.

Hobby Hole score: 9.8/Fantastic

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys no. 5 by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan | Dark Horse | $3.99

Killjoys takes a significant dive this issue after the fantastic fourth, but I believe (and hope) that's only because it uses the pages to set up the book's finale. Honestly, though that's important, it makes the issue rather forgettable in the long run. Though there were several plot developments, nothing really stood out other than, in my opinion, a less-than-fashionable makeover. And, you know, not for the right reasons there.

Where this issue shined, though, was the art. Despite being slow, the book offered some great scenery and design, along with some wonderful coloring (huge props to Dan Jackson). There's nothing in particular that stood out, though; it was just great all around.

Hobby Hole score: 7.8/Alright
Previous issue's score: 9.6/Fantastic