Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Written by Art Baltazar and Franco
Art by Ig Guara and Wil Quintana
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by Amanda Connor, Paul Mounts
Published by DC Comics
The first issue of the Green Team revival was decent, laying out the series’ premise — that among the DC Universe’s super-rich, there’s a subculture of teenagers who try and “buy into” the world of superheroes — in fairly broad strokes. However, issue #2 (written by Art Baltazar and Franco, pencilled by Ig Guara, and inked by J.P. Mayer) gets more into the details, by focusing on the two newcomers, Cecilia (an actress) and Mo (a would-be Green Teamer). This it does by getting them involved in a chaotic super-fight against the forces of Riot, a masked gang originally seen in ’90s Superman comics. Riot’s identical costumes and anarchic nature makes them an appropriate set of bad guys, not so much because they evoke a sort of angry-mob presence, but because they personify the wide range of bad outcomes facing idealists with too much disposable income. At the end of issue #1 we learned that Commodore, the head Green Teamer, had bought himself a suspiciously Stark-like suit of battle armor if anything went wrong; and this issue we see him put it (and a spare, and another super-artifact he dredged from the Gotham River) to work, mostly effectively.
That super-fight takes up the first half of this issue, and it’s pretty well choreographed, but also fairly efficient at character work. Although this comes from Commodore shouting instructions at his friends to help them survive the experience, it doesn’t come across as overly expositional. Instead, it reveals his slightly manipulative nature, Cecilia’s capacity for staying cool, and Mo’s forgiveness. The second half of the issue expands on these traits, offering insight into the characters’ backgrounds. I was impressed with Baltazar and Franco’s nimble dialogue, which (particularly in the second half) threatens to infodump, but stays plausible. Guara and Mayer’s work is crisp, slightly “cartoony,” and just detailed enough to ground the reader in the sort of unrealistic “realism” in which the series is grounded. The art reminds me of Todd Nauck and Lary Stucker’s Young Justice, and in a way the book does too. It takes its cues from the idea of the DC Universe as a place where the impossible happens daily, but so far it’s avoided looking at those sorts of things cynically. Perhaps that’s because its protagonists are each isolated in their own ways from the sufferings of ordinary people; but you have to think that perspective is coming too. Right now, though, The Green Team is apparently content merely to be a fun adventure, and that makes it a welcome addition to the New-52. –Tom Bondurant
Written by Scott Snyder
Art/cover by Sean Murphy
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo
Scott Snyder’s script keeps me on my toes by jumping around through time and space, but he and Sean Murphy reward all the diligence and patience they require. Sandwiched between the opening pages of a prehistoric megalodon hunt and the final depiction of something pretty significant happening on the moon is the continuation of last issue’s story about a team of scientists investigating a new, undersea life form. There’s plenty of government conspiracy and Murphy draws a hell of an environment for all this to take place in (not to mention a horrifying, otherworldly creature on which to focus the plot), but The Wake isn’t just about interesting, diverse characters trying to unravel a coverup. The other stuff hints at much bigger goings on and gives The Wake an epic quality far greater than the little adventure of this one, small group of people. — Michael May
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Matteo Scalera and Val Staples
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by Paolo Rivera
Published by Marvel Comics
I wanted to make sure that I listed letterer Eliopoulos in my credits for a reason. Too often I overlook the work of one of the more critical people in a comic (imagine a comic without dialogue). Without going into details with this issue, Waid explores the dynamics between Daredevil and Hulk–and what makes them such a great team together. Part of those dynamics play out in how Eliopoulos presents the dialogue in one particular scene, which also allows DD to teach Maria Hill how she might better collaborate with Banner/Hulk. Artistically, Scalera tackles a scene (where Hulk and DD enter a bar) that echoed vintage Frank Miller (which may be only in my head), but it made for a great character entrance, if nothing else. Waid’s insistence on reminding people of Banner’s inventive abilities (the issue opens with the reveal of his new phone that uses untraceable infrabands) is another element that keeps this comic in my must-read pile. –Tim O’Shea
Edited by Chris Duffy
Written by Derek Drymon, Scott Roberts, James Kochalka and Chuck Dixon
Art by Derek Drymon, Vince DePorter, Ramona Fradon, James Kochalka, Hilary Barta, Jerry Ordway, Jacob Chabot, Monica Kubina, Michael Lapinski, Michael DeVito, Jim Campbell
Published by United Plankton Pictures/Bongo Comics
The cover of this comic would have looked right at home on the newsstands of my childhood, and inside, the stories draw heavily on superhero traditions—invisible enemies, sidekicks, the secret lair—but this is SpongeBob, so there’s a layer of absurdity that wouldn’t have been there in 1968.
In the first story, SpongeBob has to wait tables for a reunion of the Aquatic Adventurers, and as he struggles not to squee, he notices that they seem to be disappearing one at a time. Being SpongeBob, he doesn’t notice that they are also reappearing one at a time. The story spirals into craziness the way SpongeBob sometimes does, ending with the flattening of Mr. Krabs. Aside from that crossover story, there’s one about SpongeBob and Patrick driving Squidward crazy with their superhero antics and another that focuses solely on Mermaid Man and his sidekick, Barnacle Boy (drawn by classic Aquaman artist Ramona Fradon). James Kochalka kicks in with a story about Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy in the retirement home, and Chuck Dixon scripts the origin story of The Golden Kelp. Sandwiched in between the stories are ads for the fictitious product Blek. While these ads are obvious parodies of real ads from the Silver Age, they are absurd enough that a modern kid can get a laugh out of them without having seen the originals they are based on.
As the editor of Nickelodeon Magazine, Duffy brought talent like Craig Thompson, Justin Green, and Ellen Forney to draw comics for the kids, and he’s doing something similar with the SpongeBob comics, relying on Derek Drymon to do much of the writing and art and bringing in a host of other creators for variety. The result is 48 pages of pure summer vacation fun that is goofy enough to be fun for kids and smart enough to entertain adults as well. — Brigid Alverson
Written and drawn by James Harvey
Published by Blank Slate Books
The most impressive thing I’ve read this week was the short story ‘Masterplasty’ by James Harvey, posted by Blank Slate Books at their website five days ago, almost instantly crashing it, too. It’s a droll piece of social commentary, a nasty little tale, well told, with a looping narrative structure, a hipster take on Fay Weldon’s The Lives and Loves of a She-Devil in some ways. The reason it spread around the internet like wildfire, though, was probably due to Harvey’s art: slick, cool, with great design and color sense.
Blank Slate are my favorite publisher around right now. Every now and again I pop up and say such-and-such a title will be their breakout book. I really believed it of both Nelson and their translation of Hector Umbra, and neither have really done that much business in the states (but really, check them both out, they’re amazing). The amazing online response to this short, dubbed a prelude to Harvey’s debut solo graphic novel Zygote, due in 2014, has me hopeful that this will be their first big crossover hit. –Mark Kardwell
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja and Matt Hollingswoth
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Like my choice last week, this is one of those “only could be done in comics” moments. The latest issue of Hawkeye is getting many (well-deserved) accolades around the ‘net already, being called out for its bold designs, its clever use of icons and the attention to detail in what words Lucky, a.k.a. Pizza Dog, does and doesn’t understand. It’s a pretty wonderful, well-executed issue that managed to nudge out a lot of good competition for me to pick as my best of the week (Young Avengers #6 was a very close second; Kate Brown is pretty awesome). The thing that really pushed it over the edge, for me, was the use of color in this issue … or the lack of color in certain parts. On the one hand, Hollingsworth is already using a fairly limited, well-chosen color palette on the book that helps give it its distinctive style, even when the artist changes. In this issue, they go a bit further, as anytime we switch over to Lucky’s POV, we lose the color (because dogs are color blind) and switch to fairly simple line art. It’s a brilliant choice; looking at page 13, as Lucky guards the street in front of his building and takes in all the sights, sounds and smells around him, I’m reminded of every time my own dog (RIP, Utah) would suddenly react to something and we had no idea what it was, only that a) he knew what it was and b) he knew we needed protection from it. This will be one issue to remember when I’m making my “best of” list at the end of the year.