March 19, 2014 Comic Reviews

All-New X-Factor no. 4 by Peter David and Carmine Di Giandomenico | Marvel | $3.99

(Note: This was released last week, but I only just got my copy.)

Three-quarters into this issue, I wasn’t really feeling it. It reminded me too much of those clich├ęd, mid-nineties hero-on-hero brawls that would pop up in various titles for no apparent reason.

Then David ended the fight in a way that made me think, just as Quicksilver notes the very next panel: “wasn’t expecting that.” And my faith in the author and the book were immediately restored. Not only that, it was boosted beyond my original hope with the very last page. Nothing here is at all what I’ve come to expect. And yet, with David at the helm, it actually is precisely that.

Of course, much of the perfectly delivered conclusion is due to Di Giandomenico’s layout, and while the uniforms and general flow of the issue seem fully indebted to those nineties comics, they are smoothly rendered and easily followed, without the overabundance of “extras” that plagued books of that era. Although certain pages and panels were mysteriously over-inked, the visuals were certainly a highlight this issue.

Hobby Hole score: 8.6/Great
Previous issue's score: 8.4/Great

Animal Man no. 29 by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman | $2.99 | DC

…wasn’t Socks a totem?

That question aside, this was a really cute and tender finale for Animal Man, even if it didn’t tie up all of the character’s loose ends. Lemire’s storybook summary of the title’s events as seen through Maxine was a great way to highlight its strengths, and combined with his trademark art, which perfectly matched the singsong nature of the recap, ended the book in a more than fitting manner.

The same can’t be said for Foreman’s bookends, wherein both the dialogue and the art seemed almost rushed and nonchalantly cobbled together. There’s an overdependence on black inks for backgrounds that muddied the imagery and didn’t properly balance—had these been simple drawings or even solid colors other than black, it might have worked.

Hobby Hole score: 8.8/Great
Previous issue's score: 8.1/Great

Ghosted no. 8 by Joshua Williamson and Davide Gianfelice | Image | $2.99

There was a point reading this issue that one of the main character’s faces reminded me of the Scar mask from the Broadway rendition of “The Lion King.” You know, this one:

That, for me, is a bit of a problem, as the art has been this entire arc. Incredibly geometrical in nature, its variance in quality is more distracting than anything else and doesn’t serve to the strengths of the story.

Not that the plot line has been overly terrific, either, especially compared to the first five issues. That said, this is a much stronger issue than the last and, while a touch over-explanatory at times, is a step in the right direction. Certainly, that drool-inducing cliffhanger seems to indicate the arc will continue on a high note.

Hobby Hole score: 7.6/Alright
Previous issue's score: 7.3/Alright

Harley Quinn no. 4 by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Stephane Roux | $2.99 | DC

As someone who only briefly dabbled in Marvel’s Deadpool (dropping the title once it hit the $3.99 price point), I never expected to enjoy Harley Quinn as much as I am. Certainly this off-beat, psychotic title is far from the caliber of fellow DC titles Batman or Swamp Thing, and yet it is so ridiculously compelling.

What benefits the book is Conner and Palmiotti’s willingness to simply go on a tangent for no explicable reason, such as the lengthy ode to Star Wars this issue. While some may see that as simple filler, it amused me to no end and only heightened my reading enjoyment. That, plus the (intentional or not) nod to Star Trek had me giddy with parody pride. Now, if only we could get the book to go somewhere….

The art was a tad unbalanced, unfortunately, as it seems Roux is still struggling to define his style, jumping from pseudo-realistic to a manga-infused pop with no noticeable pattern or trend. I suppose that’s best for this chaotic title and its equally imbalanced protagonist, but it makes the reading experience slightly more difficult.

Holly Hole score: 8.2/Great
Previous issue's score: 7.8/Alright

Zero no. 6 by Ales Kot and Vanesa Del Rey | Image | $2.99

With rotating artists, I suppose it was bound to happen eventually: for the first time, the art actively hurts the book.

It took me awhile to actually find a groove wherein I could understand what I was seeing on the page, as the loose, scratchy art depended more on abstract shadows and negative space than I’m used to. Even then, though, it was somewhat hard to follow at times, with the thickly-laid colors only further diminishing the effectiveness.

The story was similarly abstract, but the first arc followed the same basic structure wherein question after question was raised only to be answered an issue or two later. That’s fine, so long as the issue itself delivers and this, for the first time, isn’t necessarily true.

Hobby Hole score: 5.9/Forgettable
Previous issue's score: 9.3/Fantastic