Comicscape: Avengers #5, Snapshot #1 (Mania.com)

By:Joel Rickenbach
Date: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Source: Mania.com

Welcome to the all-new Comicscape! Each week we'll be taking a look at a few of the week's new books in hopes of informing your comic shop purchases, or at the very least giving you 4-color thrills and chills. Enjoy!

Avengers #5 (by Jonathan Hickman, Adam Kubert and Frank Martin, published by Marvel Comics) With five issues released in just two short months, Jonathan Hickman has firmly planted a flag in the cosmic territory of the Marvel U. It makes sense-- the whole thrust of his book is centered around the idea that the Avengers need to get “bigger”, and things to punch don't get much bigger than the ones from the cosmos. The first arc had a promising start, but by the time it wrapped up in the third issue, some good (if a bit dry and slightly self important) ideas were just cast aside. The antagonists, god-like and appropriately powered, get declawed rather quickly. I suppose one could argue the power shift is due to the new recruits Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers enlist as Avengers. The problem is, having B-list characters solve your cosmic problem before we even get to know them, leaves the resolution very cold and unsatisfying. Apparently that's by design, as last issue, and now this week's issue, deal with the origins of two of these new recruits. Issue #4 dealt with the new Hyperion, a Superman/Sentry-like character, who still needs a lot work to win our hearts. This week focuses on Smasher, and I am pleased to say this may be the best issue of the young series yet. It's not a 23-page symphony, but it gets a lot done in that short span, and gives us the opening we need to want to get to know Isabel Dare, the Iowa farm girl and Astronomy student, who gets to be a cosmic guardian. There are many shades of Green Lantern here, but all the cosmic connecting, downloading and upgrading is handled rather deftly, and Hickman gives her earthbound story just enough humanity to understand where she's coming from. There's also a very nice touch involving Captain America that hopefully gets explored in the future. I thought Adam Kubert's art was a bit rushed in Issue #4, but it really shines through here. He's such a seasoned pro, he can handle anything thrown his way. I am actually looking forward to getting to know some of these new Avengers more- Manifold, Captain Universe, Sunspot etc. I like new additions to the old guard, but they have to make sense. Here's hoping...

 

Snapshot #1 (of 4) (by Andy Diggle and Jock, published by Image Comics) Now this is how you hook a reader. This book had me in its grip from start to finish, and left me begging for more. Sometimes writers seem to forget a simple story executed flawlessly can achieve more than any giant tome of self indulgence they plan to foist upon us. The set-up and mystery are so clean and unburdened, that they let the rest of the narrative flow with such a degree of freedom it feels absolutely refreshing. This simple story keeps adding pieces to the mystery with a natural build, there are no obstacles masquerading as needless plot, just one fascinating development after another, until it ends with you frantically turning the last page hoping the next issue is hiding in the back somewhere.

 

Here's the hook (spoilers for the first half of the book ahead): Jake is biking his way to work through San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, when he comes across a cell phone lying on the ground. It's a nice phone, probably worth a couple of hundred bucks, so into Jake's pocket it goes. When he gets to his place of work (a comic store, naturally), one of the store's loyal customers is waiting to get in. Steve needs his comic fix, but unfortunately for him, new books don't come out until the next day thanks to the holiday. He resolutely stays, since half his reason for coming out was to dodge his wife and her current cause obsession. They shoot the breeze and goof off until Jake finally gets around to checking out the phone, but before they can dig into it, Steve's wife tracks him down, and Jake is left alone with his mystery. There's only one number stored in the phone's memory- Bravura Acquisitions. It's odd that a phone would only have one number in it, and things take an even darker turn when he looks at the photos. What he finds are images of an older Asian man, shot in the forehead, and missing his left pinky. Before he can even process what he's seeing the phone rings, and Jake makes a fatal mistake. Not only does he answer the phone, but he tells the person on the other line, who claims to be a cop, his name and where he works. The unidentified caller tells Jake to put the phone in the store's safe, and he'll be over to retrieve it. Now, at this point, a lot of readers will be screaming at the page. Why would he give out his name and location? I agree, I hope I would be smart enough not to if I were in the same situation, but we have to remember Jake is not us, and sometimes people make bad decisions. Slackers easily crumble when faced with authority. Soon after, this mystery man walks through the door, and there's something immediately not quite right about him. Jake goes into the back room to retrieve the phone from the safe, but the palpable sense of dread makes him change his mind, and he escapes through the back door with the phone. He makes the right choice, as the mystery man was locking up the store, and pulling a silenced pistol out of his jacket. Jake heads to the logical place- the Police. The officer on duty isn't convinced the phone is evidence of a murder, much to Jakes chagrin. Why, there could be any number of explanations for the photos, and as if on cue, a man walks in to explain. In fact, is the older Asian man in the photos, looking rather alive. He explains that the photos were just part of a murder mystery party gone too far. He and his wife have just moved to San Francisco, and they wanted to impress his new coworkers at Bravura Acquisitions. The man claims he lost the phone jogging, and can recite the phone's number from memory. The officer is convinced, he hands over the phone, and Jake's little adventure seems to have come to a close. However, as the man leaves with a wink, Jake notices something- the man's left hand is bandaged, and missing the pinky...

Diggle makes this story look easy. The characters are quickly defined, and feel like real people. The dialogue is sharp, if a bit geek-laden, but it draws us into the familiar, making the ensuing mystery all the more believable. Jock's art is superb in gorgeous black and white. He puts his "camera" in interesting places, and knows when to use shadow for maximum effect. Snapshot is one of those stories that shows us how one little thing can send a life spiraling out of control with mystery, danger and intrigue. I'm almost sad it's only a four issue run, but at least the mystery won't get stretched out to oblivion, and is racing to what should be a fantastic ending. Snapshot comes highly recommended.


Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him onTwitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.



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