Comicscape: Superman Unchained #3, Wonder Woman #23, X-Men #4 (Mania.com)
Date: Thursday, August 22, 2013
Welcome to 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. Read on!
Superman Unchained #3 (by Scott Snyder, Jim Lee and Scott Williams): Now we’re getting somewhere, if ever so slowly. Superman finally gets to actually talk with his mysterious foe, who we learn is codenamed “Wraith” (which stands for "William Rudolph's Ace In The Hole", no joke). He’s refreshingly not a platitude spouting villain, but rather a thoughtful, and even somewhat kind being. Interestingly, the bulk of his dialogue with Superman revolves around him advising Clark to submit, because it’s just easier that way. He doesn’t get any pleasure from watching Superman kneel (like General Lane does), but he knows just giving the military what they want is the quickest way to move on. Apparently it’s been ingrained in his mind after 80 plus years of doing the government’s bidding. Of course they tussle, then they team up, as is the grand tradition of comic books. The book ends with a double helping tease of what’s to come- Wraith is honored to be fighting alongside superman, but laments that “unfortunately I will have to kill you eventually.” As he says that we see bone-like spikes emerge from his body, making this grey hulking mass look a lot like our old pal who once caused the world to buy multiple copies of black poly-bagged issues of Superman.
Unfortunately, Lee’s art is still suffering. There’s a dearth of detail, and yet more rigidly traditional panel structure, that somehow still gives important moments very little breathing room. It’s like getting Jim lee at 60%, which one could argue is closer to most other artists at 100%, but the truth is it just feels unsatisfactory. There’s also some wonky positioning and anatomy, which normally wouldn’t bother me, I’m all for breaking the rules, but Lee comes from the generation of hyper-anatomical art, and if that’s your style, then it better be on point. My last bit of visual complaining is the weird licorice whip-like energy that is constantly zapping around Wraith. It’s seems random, with no real visual style, and really distracts from the art and panel to panel pacing. Hopefully we’ll get 100% Jim Lee at some point in this book’s lifespan.
Wonder Woman #23 (by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang): If you haven't been reading Wonder Woman, you truly need to remedy that. Immediately. Azzarello and Chiang may just be the best writer/artist tandem in comics, they make every aspect of storytelling seem easy. With the already overwrought New 52 universe, it is incredibly refreshing to read a book like Wonder Woman that absolutely has no bones about the story it wants to tell, and continually goes for the jugular. If you haven't been reading, then this issue will almost make no sense to you, but I would still recommend picking it up if you see it staring at you on the shelves. You can get the gist of the situation with a little effort, but even if you don't, you'll be treated to pitch-perfect action, and gorgeous art. Witness the god of war unleash undead soldiers from every era of war, see Wonder Woman's ferocity put most other characters' to shame, and smile when you turn the last page, completely satisfied with a comic that tells it's story the way you wish more did.
X-Men #4 (Brian Wood and David Lopez): This is the issue I've been waiting for from this series, and, ironically, it's just a "filler" tale sandwiched between the book's opening arc, and the giant X crossover starting next month. I found the first three issues of this book overly convoluted, and very choppy in its storytelling. This issue suffers none of those problems, and uses the big moment from the last arc to great effect. The story is split between the X-Women attempting a mid-air rescue of a passenger plane, and Jubilee dragging Wolverine all over LA to recapture some of her teenage memories. The mid-air rescue is the gem of the two- The action is paced very well (David Lopez knows how to layout a scene), and powers are used in interesting ways. The catch is all the action is happening while Storm and Rachel Summers really get into it over last issue's tough choices. Storm was willing to kill a fellow mutant if it meant saving everyone else, and Rachel can't fathom making that decision. The dialogue between the two is great, and the reactions of the rest of the characters are spot on. Storm is becoming fierce in her actions and ideologies, and it is a welcome return to the Mohawk days of this former Cairo thief.
The one area where this issue slips is its depiction of Wolverine. Sure, I buy that he would willingly spend the day with a friend as close as Jubilee, but to turn the guy into a big teddy bear is just off-putting. He's all smiles and positive reinforcement, and at one point he even buys her a house (!) I'm all for putting your own spin on a character, but this literally feels like it was written for another character and the artist drew Wolverine instead. That's not enough to detract from the overall quality of the issue, however, X-men may yet find its quality.